GSK closes North Carolina plant after Legionella bacteria found in cooling tower
UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has closed its Zebulon drug manufacturing plant in North Carolina, US, after the discovery of bacteria related to Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
The Legionella bacteria were identified at the plant’s self-standing cooling tower during the company’s routine testing at the site.
The company had ceased all operations at the North Carolina plant until the tower is cleansed.
The Zebulon manufacturing plant employs over 4,400 manufacturing, research and development, and sales and marketing staff.
According to GSK, the tower is a stand-alone structure that does not come in contact with any products and it will be cleaned and retested before the site goes back into operation.
The plant manufactures inhaled drugs such as Advair for asthma, and contracts with other pharmaceutical firms to produce their drugs.
GSK spokeswoman Jenni Brewer Ligday was quoted by FiercePharma as saying: “We are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our employees, as well as the safety and integrity of our products.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the bacteria is generally found in warm water and thrives in environments such as hot tubs, cooling towers, water tanks, large plumbing systems and fountains.
Earlier this month, New York City’s Department of Health ordered the inspection and cleaning of all cooling towers in the city after the same bacteria found in cooling tanks in the Bronx borough of the city causing 12 Legionnaires’ disease deaths.