Pneumonia death associated with dental unit waterline

A research paper published in the February 18 issue of The Lancet has revealed that the death of an elderly Italian woman from Legionnaire’s disease, can be traced back to the presence of the same strain of bacterium in the dental unit water line of her local dentist.

Researchers found that prior to her death and during the 2-12 day incubation perid for Legionnaire’s disease, the otherwise healthy 82 year old woman had left her house only twice, on both occasions to visit her dentist.

Following her death an investigation into the source of the L pneumophila infection was initiated and samples taken from the tap and high speed turbine of the practice in question and from the taps and shower in the woman’s home.

No legionella was found in the water supply at the woman’s home. The sample from the water tap in the practice was found to have significant levels of legionella bacteria present and 40 times higher levels were detected in the output from the high speed turbine. The L pneumophila type found in the surgery was the same as that isolated from the patient’s bronchial aspirate. The HSE ACOP for legionella control in water systems (L8) is referenced in HTM01-05 guidelines in England, which also state that the upper limit for total microbiological contamination in dental unit waterlines is <200 cfu/ml.

Peter Bacon, Technical Director at Dentisan who supply a product specifically developed to reduce and prevent biofilm contamination in DUWLs commented: “We have long understood the risks associated with infections caused by the presence of biofilm in dental unit water lines and have worked to provide an easy to use solution for dentists. This case underpins the duty of care dentists need to demonstrate to patients as well as to the regulatory bodies, to ensure they are minimising risk. This is exactly the reason we offer free, reliable dental unit water assessments to dentists.”

To arrange your FREE water assessment, contact Henry Schein Minerva on 08700 102043 or complete the form at

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