Notes from the Field: Mycobacterium chimaera Contamination of Heater-Cooler Devices Used in Cardiac Surgery - United States

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Oct 14;65(40):1117-1118. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6540a6.


In the spring of 2015, investigators in Switzerland reported a cluster of six patients with invasive infection with Mycobacterium chimaera, a species of nontuberculous mycobacterium ubiquitous in soil and water. The infected patients had undergone open-heart surgery that used contaminated heater-cooler devices during extracorporeal circulation (1). In July 2015, a Pennsylvania hospital also identified a cluster of invasive nontuberculous mycobacterial infections among open-heart surgery patients. Similar to the Swiss report, a field investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, with assistance from CDC, used both epidemiologic and laboratory evidence to identify an association between invasive Mycobacterium avium complex, including M. chimaera, infections and exposure to contaminated Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices, all manufactured by LivaNova PLC (formerly Sorin Group Deutschland GmbH) (2). M. chimaera was described as a distinct species of M. avium complex in 2004 (3). The results of the field investigation prompted notification of approximately 1,300 potentially exposed patients.* Although heater-cooler devices are used to regulate patients' blood temperature during cardiopulmonary bypass through water circuits that are closed, these reports suggest that aerosolized M. chimaera from the devices resulted in the invasive infections (1,2). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC have issued alerts regarding the need to follow updated manufacturer's instructions for use of the devices, evaluate the devices for contamination, remain vigilant for new infections, and continue to monitor reports from the United States and overseas (2).

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cross Infection / etiology*
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / etiology*
  • Surgical Equipment / microbiology*
  • United States