• Southwestern Veterans' Center confirms Legionella bacteria in water

    July 07, 2017


    The Southwestern Veterans' Center has confirmed it’s had low levels of Legionella bacteria in its water.

    Channel 11 learned there are still precautions being taken there with patients and staff drinking bottled water, while retesting is going on after low levels of Legionella were found there.

    11 Investigates uncovered Tuesday that a patient at the Southwestern Veterans' Center tested positive for Legionnaires' Disease on June 8 and was admitted to the VA Hospital in Oakland for treatment....

    "In order to get Legionnaires' Disease, you have to be exposed to the bacteria from the water, it has to get into your lungs and the lungs of the individual have to be susceptible to an infection,” said Dr. Janet Stout, an expert in Legionnaires' Disease at Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh. Stout told Channel 11 a long-term disinfection plan is as important as an aggressive cleaning when the bacteria is first discovered.

    "Those single knock downs, Legionella comes right back up, so it grows again even though you've controlled it initially,” Stout said.

    (Excerpt from WPXI)

  • Scaling Up! Episode 9: The L Word

    July 02, 2017

    Legionella and Legionnaires' disease are often misunderstood. The topics can be hard to talk about, and it can be even harder to find the information you need. Join Dr. Janet Stout and Trace Blackmore discuss all things Legionella on Scaling Up!, the podcast for water treaters by water treaters.

    Get to the bottom of what Legionella is, what you need to know about it, and how everyone can work together to end Legionnaires' disease by listening to "The L Word" from Scaling Up!.

  • Study: More Than 1 in 3 Heater-Cooler Devices Contaminated

    June 15, 2017

    Testing of heater-cooler units used in open heart surgery often turned up Mycobacterium chimaera -- an organism linked to fatal patient infections -- as well other bacteria and fungi, despite decontamination attempts.

    Among samples sent to one specialty testing laboratory from 89 heater-cooler devices at 23 centers, 51% tested positive for nontuberculous mycobacteria and 37% were positive specifically for M. chimaera.

    Four units were also colonized with Legionella, John Rihs, vice president of laboratory services at Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh, reported at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology meeting in Portland.

    Of the 653 samples cultured from July 2015 through December 2016, 15% were so contaminated with bacteria and fungi, with heterotrophic plate counts up to five million CFU/mL, that initial results were uninterpretable.

    The other species recovered from these units, such as M. abscessus/chelonae and M. gordonae, have not been associated with disease in this setting, Rihs said in an interview (which was monitored by conference media relations).

    "But if it's raining down M. chimaera over the surgical field, it's likely raining down those too," Rihs told MedPage Today, noting that such infections have probably occurred without being connected to the devices.

    (Excerpt from MedPageToday) 

  • Open-chest devices pose infection risk to more patients, new research shows

    June 15, 2017

     A device used routinely in open chest surgery may have put many more patients at risk of infection from a rare but deadly form of bacteria than earlier believed, according to a study by a Pittsburgh researcher released Wednesday.

    The research, released at a national conference of infection prevention experts in Portland, Ore., has prompted at least one local hospital system, Allegheny Health Network, to begin notifying about 3,000 patients who were involved in such surgeries at either Allegheny General Hospital or West Penn Hospital since 2012. UPMC said it is not notifying its patients.

    The problem with the device — heater-cooler units that are used to warm or cool patient bodies — has been known since early 2015, after research in European countries first linked infections in patients to contamination in one particular type of unit, the Stockert 3T made by LivaNova of Germany.

    U.S. regulators have since found the same problem they suspect led to the infections from the Stockert 3T — cooling fans aerosolizing leaking water — was possible with other manufacturers as well. Almost all of the reported cases of infection have come from the Stockert 3T, but a few have been associated with other manufacturers’ units as well.

    The new study by Jack Rihs, head of laboratory services at Special Pathogens Laboratory in the Pittsburgh Bluff neighborhood, found that the rate of contamination in heater-cooler units was much higher than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believed last fall when it said up to 500,000 people might be at risk.

    In samples of water from the units — all of them Stockert 3Ts, which once made up 60 percent of the market in the U.S. — Mr. Rihs found that 33 of 89 of the heater-cooler units he tested from 23 states, the District of Columbia and Canada tested positive for mycobacterium chimaera.

    “I was surprised that so many were positive,” Mr. Rihs said, “because [M. chimaera] is such a rare pathogen and to find so many in these devices all over the U.S. is unusual.”

    (Excerpt from Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

  • Hot Tubs Eyed as Another Case of Legionnaires' Reported

    June 13, 2017


    Big buildings, hot tubs and warm weather might have led to the conditions that resulted in several local cases of Legionnaires’ disease, medical and building experts said.

    A day after news broke of four cases of Legionnaires’ disease tied to two LA Fitness gyms in Orlando, Lake County health officials confirmed a seniors community in Clermont is also being investigated.

    Health investigators are also focusing on hot tubs, which may help spread the deadly bacteria, at the Summit Greens community in Clermont....

    Buildings with large water systems can be susceptible to Legionella growth and hot tubs can help spread bacteria, said Bill Pearson, senior vice president of Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh.

    “When the bacteria is able to find favorable conditions to multiply, it becomes a health hazard,” he said.

    (Excerpt from Orlando Sentinel)

  • SPL Changes to Suite Number 401 on August 29

    August 22, 2016

    On August 29, SPL's new address will be: 1401 Forbes Ave., Suite 401, Pittsburgh, PA 15219  
















  • 40 years after the Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak in Philly (Listen to Radio Times interview with Dr. Janet Stout)

    August 01, 2016

    Learn more about the historic Legionnaires' disease outbreak in WHYY's  Radio Times' interview on August 1. Forty years ago, dozens of American Legion members fell ill with a mysterious disease. The 1976 annual conference of thousands of veterans in Philadelphia and the sickness that followed lead to 34 deaths. Discussion includes the illness that was later identified and named after those afflicted veterans: Legionnaires’ disease. Get a first-hand account of the tension and fear that gripped the region from the doorman at the Bellevue Hotel at the time. Learn more from David Fraser, a Philadelphia area native who led the CDC’s federal field investigation. And Legionella expert Dr. Janet Stout, president and director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory and research associate professor at the the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, explains the new standard and regulations for Legionnaires' disease prevention.

  • Legionnaires' Disease Making a Comeback

    July 06, 2016


    Older Americans are at higher risk for the bacterial pneumonia.

    by Lisa Esposito | Staff Writer July 6, 2016, at 9:26 a.m.

    Legionnaires' disease is back on the rise, with several new outbreaks in June alone. A Hawaiian island resort, a Pittsburgh hospital and a Maryland senior-living community are all battling pneumonia-causing Legionella bacteria in their water systems. Older adults are at higher risk for getting sick after breathing in water droplets containing Legionella. Here's what you should know about this respiratory illness.

    Outbreak Response

    The first case in May could have been a coincidence. Just four days after moving into The Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant, a continuing care retirement community, a resident was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease. On June 10, the Ellicott City, Maryland, facility informed residents and staff of what was then a single case of pneumonia.

    It was unclear whether the resident had been exposed in the community or elsewhere. But a second and then a third resident (who also recently moved in) developed Legionnaires' disease. By then, administrators had brought in a consultant, Janet Stout, director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh, and were already taking precautions.

    The facility "pulled out all the stops" to address the issue, says Stout, an associate research professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a Legionnaires' expert. That meant restricting access to tap water and providing bottled water to drink; adapting ways of cooking, tooth-brushing, shaving and showering; and bringing in a team to assess the water distribution system and test water samples. Treating water systems with extra chlorine is the first step for reducing Legionella bacteria, Stout says.

    In a three-hour meeting, Stout spoke with residents and staff members to address their many questions. "Can someone get Legionnaires' disease from somebody else who has it?" was a major concern. No, she told them. There's no person-to-person transmission with Legionella. Also reassuring: In general, people who've had Legionnaires' usually won't get it a second time.

    continued on US News & World Report website 

  • Special Pathogens Laboratory Approved for Legionella Testing by New York State Health Department ELAP

    June 30, 2016

    The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) ELAP has approved Special Pathogens Laboratory for Legionella testing in both the Nonpotable and Potable Water categories.

    Prior to the New York City Legionella regulation, there was no specific Legionella ELAP certification. Since then, the NYDOH has implemented a certificate program using the ISO 11731 standard, Water Quality – Detection and Enumeration of Legionella. Upon fulfilling the requirements, the NYDOH is issuing  "interim approvals" until an on-site inspection is conducted to receive full certification. 
    The Legionella testing approval we received on June 24, 2016 is in addition to our ELAP certifications for Coliforms, E. coli and HPC testing, as well as our A2LA accreditation specifically for Legionella testing as a field of testing. To view our interim ELAP approval and other accreditations, please click here.
    The NYSDOH ELAP also instituted a new requirement for Legionella sampling and handling, specifically that sample analysis cannot exceed two days from the time of collection. For our updated Legionella sampling and shipping instructions, click here.

    If there is anything we can do to assist you in meeting these new requirements or if you need more information, please call us at 412-281-5335.

    We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you promote safer water through managing risk from Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.

  • Preventing NTM Infections from Heater-Cooler Instruments

    June 23, 2016

    Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections and contamination associated with heater-cooler devices, especially during cardiac surgery are a growing concern. According to the FDA’s Medical Device Review (MDR) database, US hospitals across 10 states account for 34% of infections or device contamination worldwide.

    NTM is a naturally occurring group of bacteria found in soil and water, including chlorinated water. Aerosolization from heater-cooler devices has been shown to contaminate the sterile operative field resulting in patient infections.

    In June 2015, LivaNova (formerly Sorin), the manufacturer of HT 3 heater-cooler devices, issued a field safety notice with disinfection protocols. Recommendations included implementing microbiological monitoring to verify effectiveness. Monthly tests include: heterotrophic plate count, coliform bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and nontuberculous mycobacteria.

    Special Pathogens Laboratory (SPL) isolated Mycobacterium chimaera from 25 of 43 heater-cooler devices. Reports found this same species at LivaNova’s production facility in Germany. Diagnosing M.chimaera infections is complicated as symptoms may not appear until one to three years after surgery. However, SPL’s early data shows a decrease in contamination after clients disinfected their devices.

    For NTM testing and developing a quality monitoring plan, please contact Jack Rihs or call 412-281-5335. Learn more.

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