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Environmental Validation of Legionella Control in a VHA Facility Water System

  • Chetan Jinadatha (a1), Eileen M. Stock (a2), Steve E. Miller (a3) and William F. McCoy (a4)



We conducted this study to determine what sample volume, concentration, and limit of detection (LOD) are adequate for environmental validation of Legionella control. We also sought to determine whether time required to obtain culture results can be reduced compared to spread-plate culture method. We also assessed whether polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and in-field total heterotrophic aerobic bacteria (THAB) counts are reliable indicators of Legionella in water samples from buildings.


Comparative Legionella screening and diagnostics study for environmental validation of a healthcare building water system.


Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility water system in central Texas.


We analyzed 50 water samples (26 hot, 24 cold) from 40 sinks and 10 showers using spread-plate cultures (International Standards Organization [ISO] 11731) on samples shipped overnight to the analytical lab. In-field, on-site cultures were obtained using the PVT (Phigenics Validation Test) culture dipslide-format sampler. A PCR assay for genus-level Legionella was performed on every sample.


No practical differences regardless of sample volume filtered were observed. Larger sample volumes yielded more detections of Legionella. No statistically significant differences at the 1 colony-forming unit (CFU)/mL or 10 CFU/mL LOD were observed. Approximately 75% less time was required when cultures were started in the field. The PCR results provided an early warning, which was confirmed by spread-plate cultures. The THAB results did not correlate with Legionella status.


For environmental validation at this facility, we confirmed that (1) 100 mL sample volumes were adequate, (2) 10× concentrations were adequate, (3) 10 CFU/mL LOD was adequate, (4) in-field cultures reliably reduced time to get results by 75%, (5) PCR provided a reliable early warning, and (6) THAB was not predictive of Legionella results.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2018;39:259–266


Corresponding author

Address correspondence to William F. McCoy, PhD, Phigenics, LLC, Nevada Center for Applied Research, University of Nevada MS-0525, 1664 N Virginia St, Reno, NV 89557 (


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