Spartan Bioscience Announces World’s First On-site Legionella DNA Test to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease in Buildings

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Award-winning portable device provides results in 45 minutes to building managers

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On-site Legionella DNA testing is the first practical way to monitor and prevent Legionella outbreaks in buildings. With widespread testing, there is the potential to basically eradicate Legionnaires’ disease. — Paul Lem, M.D., CEO.

Spartan Bioscience today announced the product launch of the Spartan Legionella Detection System. It is the first on-site DNA test for Legionella and it can detect and quantify Legionella bacteria in 45 minutes. The system consists of a coffee-cup-sized, portable DNA analyzer called the Spartan Cube® and a single-use disposable test cartridge. The system is the winner of the 2018 AHR Expo Innovation Award for Indoor Air Quality, as judged by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Legionella is a common environmental bacterium that can infect the cooling towers of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems of large buildings. Infected cooling towers release aerosolized water droplets contaminated with Legionella into the surrounding air. Building occupants who breathe in these water droplets can develop Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia. Legionnaires’ disease symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea.

Globally, there are hundreds of thousands of office towers, hospitals, hotels, shopping malls, and other large buildings at risk for infection by Legionella. Weekly testing with the Spartan system can detect Legionella bacterial growth early and allow cleaning and decontamination of the cooling tower before Legionella reaches dangerous levels to human health.

Currently, some buildings are performing monthly Legionella bacterial culture testing, in which a water sample is shipped to a third-party lab and grown on a Petri dish for 10-14 days. This turnaround time is too slow because Legionella can reach outbreak levels in as few as 7 days.(1) In addition, the culture test method can underestimate the Legionella concentration on site. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that Legionella culture can underestimate actual Legionella levels by a factor of 10 or more. Culture incorrectly reported that water samples were negative for Legionella an average of 11.5 percent of the time when in fact they were positive.(2)

Due to the limitations of Legionella bacterial culture testing, cities that have implemented mandatory testing with this method continue to have outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. For example, New York City implemented mandatory testing regulations in 2016 but has had several fatal outbreaks in 2017.(3)

Spartan has developed the first on-site Legionella DNA test to solve the problems of using lab-based bacterial culture. The technology is based on a highly-accurate Nobel-Prize winning chemistry called quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) and it is designed to meet the objectives of ISO/Technical Standard 12869:2012: “Water quality--Detection and quantification of Legionella spp. and/or Legionella pneumophila by concentration and genic amplification by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)”. The innovation was purchased by the Government of Canada, through the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP), and is being tested by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Commercialization of the innovation was supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). More product details are available at:

“On-site Legionella DNA testing is the first practical way to monitor and prevent Legionella outbreaks in buildings,” said Paul Lem, M.D., CEO of Spartan Bioscience. “With widespread testing, there is the potential to basically eradicate Legionnaires’ disease.”

About Legionnaires’ disease
Legionella infection can cause a severe pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires is fatal in about one in ten people.(4) Each year in the United States, 8,000-18,000 patients are hospitalized with Legionnaires and the CDC estimates it costs $101–321 million to the healthcare system.(5,6)

About Spartan Bioscience
Spartan Bioscience is the leader in on-demand DNA testing.(7) Spartan’s technology fully integrates DNA collection, extraction, and analysis, with an intuitive interface that is easy to operate. The Spartan Cube, the world’s smallest DNA analyzer, enables unprecedented portability and convenience in applications such as infectious disease, pharmacogenetics, and food and water safety testing.

About the Build in Canada Innovation Program
The Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP) helps Canadian companies of all sizes move their state-of-the-art goods and services from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The program helps innovators:
•land a first major reference sale
•sell their innovation, but keep the intellectual property
•get their innovation tested in a real-life setting
•gain feedback to help get products to market faster

The program pays up to $500,000 for non-military innovations and up to $1,000,000 for military innovations. Find out more at:

1. Marshall AG, Bellucci EC. (1986). Hospitality Review. 1(4): Article 2.
2. Lucas CE, Taylor TH, Fields BS. (2011). Water Res. 45(15): 4428–4436.
3. Nir SM. (2017). Legionnaires’ outbreak on Upper East Side kills one and sickens six. New York Times. June 16.
4. Benin AL, Benson RF, Besser RE. (2002). Clin Infect Dis. 35(9): 1039–1046.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 60(32): 1083–1086.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2010). Waterborne diseases could cost over $500 million annually in U.S. July 14.
7. Roberts JD et al. (2012). Lancet. 379:1705–11.

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Rachel Collier, Director of Communications
Spartan Bioscience Inc.
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