A cluster of three extrapulmonary Mycobacterium abscessus infections linked to well-maintained water-based heater-cooler devices

Various water-based heater-cooler devices (HCDs) have been implicated in nontuberculous mycobacteria outbreaks. Ongoing rigorous surveillance for healthcare-associated M. abscessus (HA-Mab) put in place following a prior institutional outbreak of M. abscessus alerted investigators to a cluster of 3 extrapulmonary M. abscessus infections among patients who had undergone cardiothoracic surgery.

Working together with our teammates in DCASIP, DiRTE Lab, and Duke University Hospital, the DICON team found that clinical presentations of case patients and epidemiologic data supported intraoperative acquisition. M. abscessus was isolated from HCDs used on patients and molecular comparison with patient isolates demonstrated clonality. Smoke testing simulated aerosolization of M. abscessus from HCDs during device operation. Because the HCD fleet was replaced, no additional extrapulmonary HA-Mab infections due to the unique clone identified in this cluster have been detected.

The full article can be read in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.