Finding Legionella in an Unlikely Place: Your Car
Otto Schwake, PhD, explains what led him to suspect automobile windshield washer fluid as a potential source of transmission for Legionella.
Otto Schwake, PhD, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, explains what led him to suspect automobile windshield washer fluid as a potential source of transmission for Legionella.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability):
“For the last 10 years, there has been more and more mounting evidence from mostly epidemiology studies. The first big one was in 2007—there have been maybe a half dozen since then—that started putting the pieces together that there is some relationship between cars and Legionnaire’s disease and then more and more thinking that it is the washer fluid. And so, when I started the original study that the current one is a follow-up to, I think it was a combination of me trying to keep up-to-date on the latest literature and thinking about different transmission routes. Car washer fluid came as sort of a natural step because it is being sprayed out.
It is kind of funny; I remember when I first started my PhD, one of the research topics I wanted to look at was where we can find legionella. These are really ubiquitous organisms they can be found in all sorts of different stressful environments, and I remember making a list after walking around day-to-day life, looking for places where water is being sprayed. Actually on the list, was cars. Flash forward a few years and I do not know if it was coincidence, or maybe a seed planted [in my head], but eventually, I followed up on that and it turned out to be a good idea.”