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Cluster of Malassezia furfur pulmonary infections in infants in a neonatal intensive-care unit


Between 23 and 27 July 1987, three infants at one hospital developed severe bronchopneumonia associated with respiratory failure, thrombocytopenia, and leukocytosis. Two infants died; at postmortem examination, Malassezia furfur was identified in their lung tissues. M. furfur was isolated from cultures of blood, urine, and stool samples from the infant who survived. All documented M. furfur infections occurred in infants with a birth weight of less than 1,000 g; the attack rate was 42.9% (three of seven infants). A case-control study comparing the three cases and nine infants randomly selected from infants in the neonatal intensive care unit during the outbreak showed the following variables to be significantly associated with case-infants: younger gestational age (less than 26 weeks), hyaline membrane disease, duration of ventilation, duration of antimicrobial therapy, and the presence of a Broviac catheter. In a second case-control study, in which case-infants were compared with birth weight-matched controls, only the duration of antimicrobial therapy was significantly associated with case-infants. A point prevalence culture survey showed that 2 of 10 infants and 2 of 11 personnel were colonized with M. furfur. This cluster suggests that M. furfur can be transmitted from an infected or colonized infant to other infants. Infection control practices should be aimed at (i) identifying high-risk infants and (ii) reemphasizing the importance of hand washing.

Richet HM, McNeil MM, Edwards MC, Jarvis WR

J. Clin. Microbiol. 1989 Jun;27(6):1197-200

PMID: 2753995