Health Contaminated machines infect heart surgery patients

Contaminated machines infect heart surgery patients

Cutting-edge genomics technology has shown a strain of bacteria can be transmitted to patients from machines commonly used to regulate body temperature during cardiac surgery.

In a collaboration with sites across Australia and New Zealand, researchers from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) at Melbourne University have confirmed that the machines are the source of a bacterial pathogen transmitted to patients. The infection can cause serious illness, but may be treated with antibiotics.

The Doherty Institute’s Dr Deborah Williamson said it’s thought the units had been pre- contaminated at manufacture.

“We think aerosols from the contaminated heater and cooler units drop into the sterile field during surgery and cause an infection,” Dr Williamson said.

“It’s a very hardy pathogen and, because it causes a latent infection, symptoms may not appear for months after surgery.”

The team is developing a rapid diagnostic test for machine contamination and to detect the infection in patients.

“We have identified fragments of DNA that are present only in this pathogen and used this unique signature to develop this new test,” Melbourne University Professor Tim Stinear said.

“This test could be used to detect the bacteria in the units before use, or to test for the infection in patients after cardiac surgery, potentially saving lives.”

Read more about the findings of this study here. Story credit: University of Melbourne newsroom.

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