Ottawa’s Spartan Bioscience Builds Portable Legionella DNA Test

Spartan Bioscience, the Ottawa-based medtech company behind the world’s smallest DNA analyzer, has built the first on-site DNA test for Legionella.

The company’s patented Spartan Cube was combined with a single-use disposable test cartridge to create what it’s calling the Spartan Legionella Detection System. The new system can test for Legionella bacteria in 45 minutes, a fraction of the typical week-long turnaround time.

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

Quick testing is crucial for a bacteria that can turn into a deadly disease. Legionella bacteria can quickly spread through a building and to its occupants through contaminated aerosolized water droplets released by cooling towers. If the infected air is breathed in by occupants, it can develop into Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia.

But to detect the bacteria through conventional means takes up to two weeks—ineffective when an outbreak can occur in as few as seven days, Spartan Bioscience reports.

Buildings of all sizes can now test indoor air for Legionella bacteria weekly with Spartan’s system and detect the bacteria before it becomes potentially fatal. No sample shipment to an outside laboratory or technical expertise is required. The innovative system won a 2018 AHR Expo Innovation Award in October.