Nosocomial Mycobacterium fortuitum colonization from a contaminated ice machine

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988 Oct;138(4):891-4. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/138.4.891.


Between October 15 and November 18, 1985, 5 patients on a medical ward of the Albany VA Medical Center (Ward 8A) became colonized with Mycobacterium fortuitum. Because other patients in Ward 8A were at risk of developing disease with M. fortuitum, microbiologic surveillance to identify colonization in sputum was begun. By February 15, 1986, 30 colonized patients had been identified in this ward but none in another ward with a comparable patient population, which suggests a source unique to Ward 8A. Because water has been recognized as a source of opportunistic mycobacterial pathogens, we conducted a retrospective case-control study using a telephone survey questionnaire to examine a number of water exposures in 10 patients and 20 control subjects. Exposure to ice from the Ward 8A ice machine, but not to potable water, was associated with colonization with M. fortuitum. Large-volume water samples from a variety of sources were cultured for acid-fast bacilli. M. fortuitum was isolated only from the ice machine in Ward 8A. The ice machine was disconnected, and no additional patients became colonized. Although ice machines are infrequently implicated in nosocomial outbreaks, they represent a potential source for pathogens that survive or replicate in water.

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / etiology*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment and Supplies, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Ice
  • Mycobacterium Infections / etiology*


  • Ice