Legionella bacteria force GSK to temporarily close North Carolina plant

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

A view of the facility from above
A view of the facility from above

Related tags Glaxosmithkline

GlaxoSmithKline was forced to briefly shutter its Zebulon, NC, manufacturing facility after the company discovered legionella bacteria in one of its cooling towers.

The company said in a statement that a routine test found the bacteria legionella, which can cause Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia.

"We are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our employees, as well as the safety and integrity of our products​,” company spokeswoman Jenni Ligday told us, noting that workers are being sent home and the second and third shifts are being told not to report for work.

The company will clean the cooling tower and retest it for the presence of legionella bacteria, she added.


GSK manufactures solid-dose products, including tablets and capsules at the Zebulon facility, as well as its respiratory drugs.

The asthma drug Advair drives a lot of the production at the plant, where workers run four Advair production lines 24 hours per day, five days per week.  But the company told a local media outlet the shutdown does not impact the Multi-Dose Dry Powder Inhaler (MDPI) site that manufactures respiratory drugs Advair, Breo, and Ellipta.

And although the Zebulon plant is at the center of GSK’s respiratory work, it also packages and produces 20 different brands and products, including drugs such as Potiga, Valtrex and Lamictal. It also does granulation, drying and packaging, and contract manufacturing of antibiotics for other companies.

And as the company prepares to make its next-generation asthma drugs in Zebulon, the company plans to hire 100 workers later this year and between 30 and 40 there next year.

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