Around 600 cases of Legionnaires’ disease – a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria – are reported in Germany each year. When an outbreak of the disease occurs, the source of infection needs to be found as quickly as possible to prevent the disease from spreading further. To be totally certain when identifying the source of infection – usually technical facilities carrying water – a complete match is needed between the bacterium found in the patient and the pathogen detected in the facility. Currently this is generally performed using complex fine typing that often takes from several days to weeks. GWK Präzisionstechnik GmbH has joined forces with project partners the Technical University of Munich, TU Dresden and the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety to establish a fast and sensitive test method for typing Legionella in infected individuals and in air and water.

To this end, the research network is developing a biochip that automatically performs fine typing within minutes and – similar to a computer chip – can process large volumes of information in the smallest of spaces. This technology is designed to be much faster than conventional testing procedures so that future infections can be resolved more quickly. There are plans to use the detection system for rapid typing both in clinical diagnostics and in regional health authorities to manage infectious diseases. The system could also be used to identify other pathogens, as it works quickly, reliably and cost-efficiently.