Pathogen Found in Wiper Fluid

Scientists isolate the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease in windshield-washing liquid taken from school buses.

By | May 19, 2014

FLICKR, KB35

Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, can thrive in windshield-washer fluid, according to a new study of washer fluid samples from 12 school busses. Arizona State University’s David Schwake and colleagues noted that even when its windows are closed, automobiles are constantly taking in air, which could include aerosolized, disease-causing L. pneuomophila.

“A few studies have been showing for a while now that professional drivers in particular are at increased risk of pneumonia caused by Legionella,” Schwake said today (May 19) during the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) annual meeting being held in Boston, Massachusetts. Scientists examining epidemiological data have suggested that highway puddles or air-conditioning systems might be to blame. But Schwake and his colleagues found that wiper fluid might be the culprit, with more than three-quarters of the school busses they sampled containing Legionella.

Schwake noted that antifreeze can be antibacterial. But antifreeze concentrations can vary by wiper fluid brand, and the region where it’s sold. “We don’t get too much freezing weather in Arizona, [so] our washer fluid doesn’t have much antifreeze,” he said at the meeting. Moreover, simply upping the antifreeze concentration is an unlikely solution to the pathogen problem, as high levels of antifreeze can harm vehicles, Schwake added. “It’s sort of like pick your poison: Do you want pneumonia or toxic levels of this volatile compound?”

Because L. pneuomophila can be found in wiper fluid does not mean window-washing causes disease. “Using what information we have, [we are] trying to come up with an estimate for risk of Legionnaires’ disease from this source,” Schwake said at ASM.

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Running on Empty
    Features Running on Empty

    Regularly taking breaks from eating—for hours or days—can trigger changes both expected, such as in metabolic dynamics and inflammation, and surprising, as in immune system function and cancer progression.

  2. Athletes’ Microbiomes Differ from Nonathletes
  3. Gut Feeling
    Daily News Gut Feeling

    Sensory cells of the mouse intestine let the brain know if certain compounds are present by speaking directly to gut neurons via serotonin.

  4. Immune Cells Deliver Cancer Drugs to the Brain
AAAS