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Heater-Cooler NTM Infection Reported in Australia


August 2, 2016 — The Australian Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) has reported the nation’s first case of an NTM infection in a patient who underwent open heart surgery last year.

The patient was infected with Mycobacterium chimaera, which is a type of Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacterium (NTM) that is commonly found in tap water and soil. It can take years before symptoms of the infection appear, which makes diagnosis challenging.

During the surgery, a heater-cooler device was used to regulate the patient’s body temperature. The FDA has issued warnings about NTM infections from heater-cooler devices after several deadly outbreaks.

Heater-cooler devices are machines that use water to control the temperature of the patient’s blood while it is diverted during cardio-pulmonary bypass. The water does not come in direct contact with the patient. However, bacteria in the water can aerosolize through the exhaust vents and land on the patient.

In the United Sates, dozens of cases of NTM have been reported. The FDA received 32 reports between January 2010 and August 2015.

Several hospitals have had outbreaks and alerted patients about possible exposure. In February, one hospital in Iowa warned 1,500 patients they may have been exposed. Last year, thousands of patients were exposed to NTM at two hospitals in Pennsylvania, including one hospital where eight patients were infected.


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