GlaxoSmithKline Shuts Down North Carolina Plant After Discovery of Legionella Bacteria

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The company closed its Zebulon-based plant after routine testing of a cooling tower revealed the presence of the bacterium responsible for Legionnaire’s disease.


GlaxoSmithKline temporarily closed its North Carolina plant on Aug. 11, 2015 after testing of a plant cooling tower revealed the presence of the bacterium Legionella, which is known to cause Legionnaire's disease. Legionella is a gram-negative bacteria that can usually be traced to water sources, and Legionnaire’s disease is a serious pneumonia-like condition that is contracted by breathing in air or mist contaminated with the microbe.

According to The News & Observer, GSK Director of US External Communications Jenni Brewer Ligday said in an emailed statement that the cooling tower is a standalone structure and did not come into contact with any products manufactured at the facility. The products made at the plant include inhaled respiratory drugs Advair and Breo Ellipta, among others. All of the plant operators were sent home, and will not return to work until GSK cleans the tower and re-tests for the bacteria, the statement said.


A recent outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in the Bronx attributed to a cooling tower sickened 113 people and killed 12, according to The New York Times. A spokesperson told the publication that The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that there were no cases of the illness associated with the facility at press time.

Sources: The New York Times, The News & Observer