False-positive legionella titres in routine clinical serology testing detected by absorption with campylobacter: implications for the serological diagnosis of legionnaires' disease

J Infect. 1996 Jan;32(1):23-6. doi: 10.1016/s0163-4453(96)80005-3.


A simple absorption step using blocking fluid prepared from a selected campylobacter strain was introduced in parallel with routine legionella serology tests. Over 12 months, 2716 patients were tested for legionella antibodies by the Indirect Fluorescent Antibody Test of whom 58 (2.1%) had a positive titre (> or = 16) in one or more sera. Campylobacter blocking fluid significantly reduced the legionella titres in 17 of these patients (29%) including four patients with diagnostic serology results (two of whom had pneumonia) and 13 patients with non-diagnostic titres. Absorption with campylobacter however had no effect on the legionella titres in 10 patients with positive serology, in whom legionnaires' disease had been confirmed by culture of Legionella pneumophila from sputum or detection of legionella urinary antigen by ELISA. These results indicate that the serological cross-reaction between legionella and campylobacter is encountered in routine legionella serology tests. The important implications for the diagnosis of legionnaires' disease are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Campylobacter / immunology*
  • Cross Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Humans
  • Legionellaceae / immunology*
  • Legionellosis / diagnosis*
  • Serologic Tests / methods*