Pseudoepidemic of nontuberculous mycobacteria due to a contaminated bronchoscope cleaning machine. Report of an outbreak and review of the literature

Chest. 1992 May;101(5):1245-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.101.5.1245.


We describe a pseudoepidemic due to nontuberculous mycobacteria contaminating the water tank of a machine used to clean and disinfect fiberoptic endoscopes. Forty-six bronchoscopies performed on 41 patients during a six-month period yielded 16 specimens positive for acid-fast bacilli (AFB). One specimen showed Mycobacterium avium complex from an AIDS patient and one, M tuberculosis from a patient with active cavitary tuberculosis. In four patients, only the smears showed AFB; subsequent cultures remained negative. Of the rest, seven contained M chelonae and three M gordonae, all in patients with no clinical signs of mycobacterial disease. Two of the three M gordonae isolates represented laboratory contamination from an antimicrobial solution in a culture medium. Four patients in the beginning of the pseudoepidemic were treated for presumed tuberculosis until negative culture results were available. Control of the "outbreak" was achieved by regular disinfection of the implicated water tank in the cleaning machine. Contamination of bronchoscopes with nontuberculous mycobacteria can lead to unnecessary diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Cross Infection / diagnosis
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / etiology
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / epidemiology*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / etiology
  • Mycobacterium chelonae* / isolation & purification
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Supply