The National Reference Centre for Legionella Infections (NRLI) at the AGES Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene (IMED) – formerly the Federal Bacteriological-Serological Analysis Institute in Vienna – has been in existence since 1987.
The tasks and objectives of the NRLI include:
Improving the microbiological and serological diagnostics of legionella infections and ensuring correct diagnoses. This includes, for example, phenotypic and genotypic identification of legionella strains isolated from patients, the analysis of legionella antibody-positive serums with monovalent antigens, and the analysis of legionella antigen-positive and borderline-positive urine samples for the purpose of quality assurance.
In cases of certain or suspected fresh legionella infection, investigating the possible source of infection in cooperation with the competent health authorities. For this purpose, there is a questionnaire to be completed by the attending physicians.
In case of indications of a possible source of infection, testing for legionella water samples of the suspected source of exposure.
Comparing legionella isolates from patients and from water samples with biomolecular typing methods in order to confirm or rule out suspected water transporting systems as the sources of infection.
The Reference Centre is a member of the “European Working Group for Legionella Infections (EWGLI)” and thus plays a significant role in the European Surveillance Scheme for Travel Associated Legionnaires’ Disease (EWGLINET).
In this context, the following tasks are performed:
Reporting to the EWGLINET centre cases of travel-associated legionella infections diagnosed in Austria, with information about the accommodation facilities, typically located abroad, where the patient stayed during the incubation period.
Together with the competent health authorities, investigation of accommodation facilities in Austria which are reported, via EWGLINET, as the possible source of infection for foreign tourists; where required, remedial action is demanded.
In case an increase in legionella infections is suspected, the Reference Centre and the competent health authorities can be supported in their search for the source of outbreak; this also applies if control measures are required on the part of the Competence Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the location of AGES IMED in Vienna.
The Reference Centre publishes general information about legionella, the epidemiology of legionella infections in Austria, and about preventive and control measures. The Reference Centre also provides customer advice on the potential risks posed by legionella and on testing options.