Legionnaires’ disease, caused by the legionella bacteria, is commonly linked to water systems such as air conditioning units, showers and fountains, where water is given off in a fine spray.
The case control study looked into the potential risk factors for drivers and passengers, given that most cases of sporadic, or isolated, Legionnaires’ disease are rarely traced to a source, and that drivers figure disproportionately among cases of sporadic Legionella infection.
Researchers for the study interviewed 75 patients in England and Wales who had recovered from community acquired Legionnaires’ disease between July 2008 and March 2009, comparing them to a group of matched people who had not experienced any similar infection.
The study found two exposures associated with vehicle use where there was an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease: driving through industrial areas and driving or being a passenger in a vehicle without screenwash in its wiper fluid. These associations had not been previously identified.
Further studies are now required to further explore this finding, and to determine whether the use of screen wash in wiper fluid could play a role in preventing this disease. The HPA is exploring ways of taking this forward with partner organisations.
1.The study Windscreen wiper fluid without added screenwash in motor vehicles: a newly identified risk factor for Legionnaires’ disease was published online in the European Journal of Epidemiology, on 8 June 2010
2. For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, visit the HPA website: