Aims: To compare the standard culture method with a new, rapid test (ScanVIT-Legionella™) using fluorescently labelled gene probes for the detection and enumeration of Legionella spp. The new technique was validated through experiments conducted on both artificially and naturally contaminated water and through an inter-laboratory comparison.
Methods and Results: All samples were processed by the ScanVIT test according to the manufacturer’s instructions and by a culture method (ISO 11731). ScanVIT detected significantly more positive samples, although concentrations were similar and a strong positive correlation between the two methods was observed (r = 0·888, P < 0·001). The new test was more accurate in identifying the co-presence of Legionella pneumophila and Leg. non-pneumophila. ScanVIT showed a slightly higher Legionella recovery from water samples artificially contaminated with Leg. pneumophila alone or together with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Lastly, the inter-laboratory comparison revealed that the ScanVIT test exhibits a lower variability than the traditional culture test (mean coefficient of variation 8·7 vs 16·1%).
Conclusions: The results confirmed that the ScanVIT largely overlaps the reference method and offers advantages in terms of sensitivity, quantitative reliability and reduced assay time.
Significance and Impact of the Study: The proposed method may represent a useful validated alternative to traditional culture for the rapid detection and quantification of Legionella spp. in water.