In the last three months of 1985 there was an outbreak of legionnaires' disease at Glasgow Royal Infirmary affecting 15 patients and one surgeon; five patients died. Legionnaires' disease was first suspected when a second case of severe nosocomial pneumonia occurred in a high dependency unit. The application of the direct fluorescent antibody test to specimens obtained at bronchoscopy was responsible for the rapid diagnosis of legionnaires' disease, which led to the prescription of appropriate antibiotic treatment and the shutting down of the contaminated cooling tower, thereby containing the outbreak. It also led to a search for further cases. It is suggested that these diagnostic techniques should be included in the investigation of affected patients in an outbreak of pneumonia.
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