Legionella – Respiratory PCR and Culture

Testing Indications

Contact your local Public Health Unit if you suspect an outbreak of Legionella in your facility.

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Legionella PCR +/- Culture

Lower respiratory tract specimens such as lung tissues, BAL, aspirates etc. collected during the acute phase of illness.

Sterile container

Submission and Collection Notes


Indicate symptoms and date of onset on the General Test Requisition Form if diagnostic testing is required.

Timing of Specimen Collection

Specimens should be collected during the acute phase of illness.


The Legionella species PCR has been shown to cross react with Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. No such cross reaction has been found with the L. pneumophila specific target. Results should be interpreted in the clinical context of the patient.

Preparation Prior to Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHO laboratory on ice packs.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

The Legionella PCR and culture are performed daily, Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is up to 4 days from receipt by PHO laboratory for PCR. 

Turnaround time is up to 15 days from receipt by PHO laboratory for culture.


Results are reported to the ordering physician or health care provider as indicated on the requisition.

Specimens that are positive for Legionella are to be reported to the Medical Officer of Health as per Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Test Methods

Legionella specimens are tested for Legionella pneumophila and Legionella species by PCR. All specimens that test positive by PCR are cultured. Culture positive specimens are identified to the genus, species and serogroup levels.


  • Negative Result: Legionella species including Legionella pneumophila NOT DETECTED.
  • Positive Result: Legionella pneumophila DETECTED or Legionella species DETECTED, not Legionella pneumophila.
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Updated 20 July 2020