Although traditional culture methods are appropriate for detection of Legionella species, such culture takes several days. Rapid detection (<24 h) of individual Legionella is possible using fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) on whole bacteria. Water samples were filtered and the concentrated bacteria were immediately detected (without culture) with a fluorescence microscope following appropriate labelling. The detection level was very high and quantification was possible. For the detection of all Legionella spp. the probe LEG705 was used, complementary to a 16S rRNA sequence conserved in all Legionella spp. For specific detection of L. pneumophila the probe LEGPNE1 was used. This probe is designed against a variable domain of the 16S rRNA sequence from L. pneumophila. CY3 and FLUOS labels were tested and CY3 showed clearly detectable bacteria with minimum background staining. This FISH technique is very sensitive, fast, reliable and individual bacteria are easily detected.

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