• Legionnaires' Disease in the VA Hospital System: WESA Interview

    June 11, 2013

    In a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reporter Adam Smeltz has investigated on the prevalence of the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaire's disease, in Pittsburgh's VA hospital in Oakland.  His findings indicate that there may have been reason to fear an outbreak in the hospital prior to the one that occurred in 2011.

    We'll be joined in studio by Smeltz as well as Dr. Janet Stout, a Legionella expert and director of Special Pathogens Laboratory, as well as a former employee of the Pittsburgh VA hospital system

  • No known illnesses from Legionella bacteria found in Washington County VA clinic, official says

    May 16, 2013

    The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease have been found at the Pittsburgh VA's outpatient clinic in the Washington Crown Center mall in North Franklin.

    Clinic officials are not aware of any illnesses from the contamination, so there were no cases to report to state health officials, said Brandon Blatt, a vice president of Sterling Medical Corp., the Cincinnati-based firm that leases and runs the clinic for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Outpatients at the VA clinic would generally face a “very, very low” risk of Legionella exposure, said microbiology expert Janet Stout, who formerly worked at the Pittsburgh VA system. The elderly and others with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to the bacteria, which cause Legionnaires' when inhaled as mist from showers or spas.

    “A certain percentage of us live with Legionella in our home,” said Stout, who now runs the Special Pathogens Laboratory, Uptown. “Most of us are exposed to Legionella without harm.”

    She said patients in hospitals or other inpatient facilities can face a higher exposure risk because they stay for prolonged periods of time.

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  • Critics assail 2006 closing of Legionnaires' researchers Pittsburgh VA lab, Say standards eroded when Legionnaires' researchers departed

    April 28, 2013

    It seemed like a simple request to Victor Yu and Janet Stout.

    It was the first week of January 2006, and the two longtime colleagues and respected Legionnaires' researchers went together to the office of Mona Melhem, who oversaw the Pittsburgh Veterans' Affairs laboratories.

    By then, it had been 26 years since Dr. Stout, a former Navy brat with a calming personality, had come to work as a graduate student with Dr. Yu, the son of Chinese immigrants known for his prickly personality and tenaciousness. In the interceding years, Dr. Stout had gotten her master's degree, her doctorate and a great deal of recognition for making -- in partnership with Dr. Yu -- some of the most important discoveries in the detection and prevention of the often-deadly Legionella bacteria.

    Because of all of that, Dr. Yu believed his friend and research colleague deserved a raise.


  • Special Pathogens Laboratory Hires VP of Consulting Services

    April 17, 2013

    Legionella services expand with engineering expertise

    Special Pathogens Laboratory announced today that Frank P. Sidari III, PE, BCEE, recently joined the firm to expand its Legionella consulting services.

    Sidari brings significant water and wastewater experience from his work at major engineering firms including URS and ARCADIS/Malcolm Pirnie. In those positions, he conducted all phases of water/wastewater projects including, client and proposal development, studies, field services, detailed design and specification, permitting, and construction services.

    A registered professional engineer, board certified environmental engineer and certified construction document technologist, Sidari joins Special Pathogens Laboratory as vice president for SPL Consulting Services, which provides Legionella risk assessments, outbreak response, water system and disinfection improvements, product evaluation, research, and education.

    “I’m excited to be part of the Special Pathogens Laboratory team and look forward to developing services to improve the quality and safety of building water systems," says Sidari.  

    Experienced in evaluation and disinfection of potable water systems with respect to Legionella, Sidari published the first field evaluation of chlorine dioxide disinfection of a hospital campus water system to control Legionella pneumophila, which appeared in Journal of the American Water Works Association. 

    Dr. Janet E. Stout, director of Special Pathogens Laboratory and research associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, says, “We're pleased that Frank has joined Special Pathogens Laboratory. As a professional engineer, Frank adds a new dimension to SPL Consulting Services. His knowledge of Legionella prevention and control, combined with 15 years engineering experience uniquely positions him to lead our expansion of services to prevent disease due to Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.”

  • New SPL Publication, Novel Antimicrobial Polymer Reduces Contamination on Computer Keyboards

    April 03, 2013

    Computer keyboard covers impregnated with a novel antimicrobial polymer significantly reduce microbial contamination

    Contact with contaminated computer keyboards may contribute to the transmission of healthcare acquired infections. SPL tested a novel antimicrobial polymer, Biosafe HM 4100, which can be incorporated into polyurethane used to make keyboard covers.

    Plastic keyboard covers compounded with HM4100 effectively minimized the survival of bacterial species commonly present on environmental surfaces in the healthcare setting.The Biosafe coating demonstrated efficacy in reducing viability for methicillin-resistant staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VREF).

    The article, Computer keyboard covers impregnated with a novel antimicrobial polymer significantly reduce microbial contamination, appears online and was published in the print version of American Journal of Infection Control, 41 (2013) 337-9 in April.

  • SPL Receives Grant from Sloan Foundation for Gene Sequencing

    March 03, 2013

    On the heels of SPL's first U.S. trial of an onsite monochloramine generation system in a hospital hot water system, comes another study aimed at exploring how this particular Legionella disinfection technology changes the microbial ecology.

    In March, the Sloan Foundation awarded a research grant to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Enginneering researchers Kyle Bibby, PhD, and Janet E. Stout, PhD, to fund this four-month study. Researchers, using water samples taken during SPL's monochloramine studies, will produce and analyze gene sequence libraries using PCR to discover shifts in ecology and diversity.

    Changing the bacteria make up in a hospital water system could be of particular concern in hospitals in which immunpcompromised patients may not be protected by current drinking water standards. It is important to understand the impact of disinfection on the microbial ecology of building plumbing.

    "This study is an ideal fit for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Microbiology and the Built Environment program," says Dr. Stout. "It's one step in advancing our understanding of what is happening in our water on a microbiological level that could have far reaching public health implications."

    The grant will also help support the work on this project of Julianne Baron, a PhD candidate at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health, who holds an appointment at SPL. Her research in Legionella is focused on using PCR for DNA sequencing.

  • Legionella Breaks Out in Pittsburgh

    February 06, 2013

    A Feb. 5 hearing by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations focused on VA’s actions to prevent the spread of Legionella at its Pittsburgh facility. Panelists included Dr. Robert Jesse of VA, Dr. Lauri Hicks of CDC, Victor Yu, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Janet Stout of the Special Pathogens Laboratory in Pittsburgh.

    Stout testified that the University Drive Campus failed to recognize the Legionella outbreak and take preventive actions. "The delay may have contributed to additional cases and deaths." She also said the facility failed to operate its water disinfection system properly, and "finally, failure to communicate with physicians, staff, patients and families regarding the increase in cases. The delay in alerting physicians may have contributed to additional morbidity and mortality."

    Many medical facilities use a copper-silver ionization system to disinfect their water supplies and keep Legionella at bay; other systems use chlorine or chlorine dioxide.

    "The only way an outbreak of this magnitude could have occurred is if the water system at the Pittsburgh VA had become heavily contaminated with Legionella," Stout told the subcommittee. "The environmental testing performed by the VA microbiology laboratory should have detected this increase."

    Yu, an expert on infectious diseases, testified that once a hospital’s water system is infected with Legionella, it stays there "for the rest of the lifetime of the hospital." He said the bacteria has been at the Pittsburgh facility since 1982. "You can suppress it pretty easily, but if you don’t maintain a system, that organism is going to come out."

    With new antibiotics, Yu said. the mortality rate for Legionnaires’ Disease has dropped effectively to zero. The five veterans who died "either didn’t get the antibiotic or they got it too late while they were dying. The fact that Legionella had recontaminated the system was not communicated to the emergency room physician ... or the intensive care physician," he said.

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  • Legionnaires' Disease Kills Patient at Pittsburgh VAMC

    January 05, 2013

    An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a VA hospital in Pittsburgh has led to at least one death and sent hospital administration searching for the source of the contamination.

    News of the outbreak broke in November when it was discovered that at least four patients at the University Drive VA Medical Center in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ (Legionellosis), a potentially fatal disease caused by a bacteria belonging to the genus Legionella.

    Interestingly, the Pittsburgh VA Health Care System was once a world-renowned center of Legionella research. Following the outbreak at a convention of the American Legion at a hotel in Philadelphia in July 1976 — which gave the disease its name — VA began intense investigations into the disease. In fact, a VA researcher, Janet Stout, PhD, is credited with discovering that the bacteria is transmitted through an infected water supply.

  • VA under Scrutiny after Legionnaires' cases in Pittsburgh

    December 14, 2012

    Twenty-nine patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Pittsburgh have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease since January 2011, raising questions about the institution's safety practices.

  • Legionnaires' probe at Pittsburgh VA widening

    December 04, 2012

    Drs. Janet Stout and Victor Yu call for further investigation into Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA.