Submitting Specimens for Legionella Testing

Key points

  • CDC primarily performs culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction to identify Legionella.
  • CDC also performs Legionella molecular characterization.
  • CDC doesn't use direct fluorescent antibody stain or serological testing as routine diagnostic methods.
  • CDC only accepts specimens from state public health laboratories and other federal agencies.
A laboratorian technician unpacks environmental samples for Legionella testing.

Specimen acceptance criteria

CDC only accepts various specimen types for Legionella testing from public health laboratories and other federal agencies.

Specimens from private healthcare providers and institutions must be submitted to a public health department laboratory for appropriate processing. Public health department laboratory staff can forward approved specimens to CDC for specialized testing.

Specimen, documentation, packaging, and shipping

Specimen requirements vary by the specific test requested.

The following links provide information on specimen, documentation, packaging, and shipping requirements:

Common rejection criteria

CDC's laboratory most commonly rejects specimens for Legionella testing for the following reasons:

  • Unacceptable specimen type
  • Specimens stored, shipped, or received at incorrect temperatures
  • Improperly labeled specimens


Environmental Legionella Isolation Techniques Evaluation Program
Laboratories are able to test their proficiency at isolating Legionella from simulated environmental samples. This program issues documentation to those who pass the proficiency test.

Legionella Reference Center quick reference guide
This reference center accepts testing requests from governmental public health or environmental laboratories. It performs Legionella testing on clinical specimens and isolates, as well as environmental isolates and outbreak samples.