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How often is a work-up for Legionella pursued in patients with pneumonia? A retrospective study

Brian Hollenbeck1, Irene Dupont2 and Leonard A Mermel23*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, 593 Eddy Street, Providence, RI 02903 USA

2 Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control, Rhode Island Hospital, 593 Eddy Street, Providence RI 02903 USA

3 Division of Infectious Diseases, Rhode Island Hospital, 593 Eddy Street, Providence, RI 02903 USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:237  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-237

Published: 7 September 2011



It is unclear how often patients with pneumonia are assessed for Legionella in endemic areas. Additionally, the sensitivity of the IDSA/ATS criteria for recommended Legionella testing is undefined.


We performed a single-center, retrospective study of patients diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia at our hospital to determine: 1) how often Legionella diagnostic testing is obtained on patients with pneumonia at the time of hospitalization or when pneumonia developed during hospitalization; and 2) how often patient's with Legionella pneumonia met at least one of the five criteria in the IDSA/ATS guidelines recommending a work-up for Legionella. Patients with Legionella pneumonia were identified using an infection control software program. Medical records of these patients were then reviewed.


Thirty-five percent of patients with a discharge diagnosis of pneumonia had Legionella urine antigen testing and/or a Legionella culture performed. Forty-four percent of patients who had a bronchoscopic specimen sent for microbiologic testing had a Legionella culture performed on the bronchoscopic specimen and/or Legionella urine antigen testing. Of 37 adult patients with Legionella pneumonia, 22 (59%) met the IDSA-ATS criteria recommending Legionella testing.


Following current recommendations for Legionella testing missed 41% of Legionella cases in adults in our single-center study. A work-up for Legionella (i.e., urine antigen test and/or culture) was performed in less than half of patients who have a bronchoscopic specimen sent for microbiologic testing.

Legionella; Legionnaires' disease; pneumonia