Waterborne Nosocomial Infections

Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2000 Dec;2(6):490-496. doi: 10.1007/s11908-000-0049-1.


Waterborne pathogens cause infections in health-care facilities. Despite guidelines addressing these pathogens, outbreaks and pseudo-outbreaks continue to occur. We reviewed recent reports of infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Chryseobacterium species, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and Legionella species. Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection in HIV patients has been linked to hospital water distribution systems; molecular subtyping showed that MAC isolates in patients and hospital water were identical. In immunosuppressed patients, Fusarium infection has been linked to the hospital water distribution system; again molecular subtyping showed that isolates from patients and the water supply were identical. Parasites, especially Cryptosporidium, and viruses have also been implicated in nosocomial infection. Transmission occurs via contact, ingestion, aspiration, or aerosolization of potable water, or via the hands of health-care workers. Interventions designed to interrupt transmission of waterborne pathogens have included the use of antimicrobial handwashes, targeted disinfection of the water supply, and, in high-risk populations, restricting the use of tap water.