Legionella detection by culture and qPCR: Comparing apples and oranges

Harriet Whiley, Michael Taylor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    74 Citations (Scopus)


    Legionella spp. are the causative agent of Legionnaires disease and an opportunistic pathogen of significant public health concern. Identification and quantification from environmental sources is crucial for identifying outbreak origins and providing sufficient information for risk assessment and disease prevention. Currently there are a range of methods for Legionella spp. quantification from environmental sources, but the two most widely used and accepted are culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). This paper provides a review of these two methods and outlines their advantages and limitations. Studies from the last 10 years which have concurrently used culture and qPCR to quantify Legionella spp. from environmental sources have been compiled. 26/28 studies detected Legionella at a higher rate using qPCR compared to culture, whilst only one study detected equivalent levels of Legionella spp. using both qPCR and culture. Aggregating the environmental samples from all 28 studies, 2856/3967 (72%) tested positive for the presence of Legionella spp. using qPCR and 1331/3967 (34%) using culture. The lack of correlation between methods highlights the need to develop an acceptable standardized method for quantification that is sufficient for risk assessment and management of this human pathogen.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-74
    Number of pages10
    Issue number1
    Early online date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


    • Culture
    • environmental samples
    • L. pneumophila
    • Legionella spp.
    • PCR
    • public health
    • qPCR
    • risk assessment


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