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Original Press Release

Polycarbonate Filters in Legionella Detection

Press release date: Jul 14, 2017

There's no shortage of news stories on a tiny bacterium continuing to cause big trouble; Legionella. In a recent search of Google News, 1800 different stories from across the globe are revealed for June of this year when searched strictly against the term "Legionella." Illustrations of how serious a threat is this bacterium can be are seen across the variety of the news stories; from people becoming infected after using contaminated showers in gyms, hotels, hospitals, to babies born in birthing pools, basic residential water supplies, and even a simple backyard garden hose. So, what is this nasty little microorganism, and why is it still causing trouble? To look closer, let's revisit two newsletter stories Sterlitech originally published back in December 2010 and April 2011 respectively. No Water

If you are unfamiliar with Legionella, it is a waterborne pathogen commonly found in aerosolized waters such as cooling towers, showers, and humidifiers, and it is best known as the cause of Legionnaire's Disease as well as Pontiac Fever. Its name originated from an outbreak that occurred at the 1976 convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia.

There are two areas in which membranes are used in regards to dealing with Legionella: Sample preparation and point-of-use filtration. For sample preparation, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends using a 0.2 micron, 47mm polycarbonate filter to extract Legionella bacterium from potable water. Non-potable water utilizes a direct plating procedure.

Point of use filtration frequently involves a device that attaches to a faucet or showerhead to eliminate Legionella. Such devices have filters built into them, usually made of Nylon or PFT. A few years ago, the American Journal of Infection Control conducted a study of these devices and found them to be extremely effective at preventing the spread of waterborne pathogens. The CDC also has up-to-the-date guidelines on testing samples for Legionella, and Sterlitech 0.2 micron polycarbonate membranes are perfectly suited for this application: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/health-depts/inv-tools-cluster/lab-inv-tools/procedures-manual.html.

In February of 2011, an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease infected more than 120 guests of the legendary Playboy Mansion. Investigators determined the culprit was none other than the uninvited guest: Legionella bacterium. We've previously discussed how our polycarbonate membrane filters are used by the CDC to detect samples of the legionella bacterium. In addition to traditional detection methods, the CDC also turned to social media in this case to track down those afflicted and to uncover the source of the problem. Through the use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and online polling, the CDC was able to identify an outbreak and deduce that it likely originated from a single source. Further investigation narrowed down the exact source to a particular spa, inside the grotto at the Mansion. You can view the presentation about the details of the investigation here.

In 2012, a published scientific paper from the Journal of Microbial Technology detailed the success of using Sterlitech polycarbonate filters in a rapid detection method for tap water. Legionella can indeed be a tough foe to keep out of our water systems, and Sterlitech polycarbonate membranes, as well as other filter materials, will continue to help researchers keep this tiny bacterium in check.

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