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Outbreak of Acinetobacter spp. bloodstream infections in a nursery associated with contaminated aerosols and air conditioners


BACKGROUND: Acinetobacter spp. are multidrug-resistant bacteria that grow well in water and cause infections with unexplained, increased summer prevalence. In August, 1996, eight infants acquired Acinetobacter spp. bloodstream infection (A-BSI) while in a nursery in the Bahamas; three infants died and an investigation was initiated.

METHODS: A case patient was defined as any newborn in the nursery during August 6 to 13, 1996, with A-BSI. To identify risk factors for A-BSI we conducted a retrospective cohort study and performed environmental cultures and air sampling using settle plates. The genetic relatedness of environmental isolates was assessed by pulsed field gel electrophoresis.

RESULTS: Of 33 patients in the nursery 8 (24%) met the case definition. Patients with peripheral iv catheters were more likely to develop A-BSI (8 of 21 vs. O of 10, P < 0.05). Multivariate analysis among patients with iv catheters indicated that only exposure to one nurse was an independent risk factor for developing A-BSI (P < 0.005). Nursery settle plates were more likely to grow Acinetobacter spp. than were settle plates from other hospital areas (8 of 9 vs. 0 of 5, P < 0.005); cultures from nursery air conditioners also grew Acinetobacter spp. Environmental isolates were genetically diverse. After installation of a new air conditioner in May, 1995, A-BSIs occurred more frequently during months of increased absolute humidity or environmental dew point.

CONCLUSIONS: Acinetobacter spp. may cause nosocomial BSI and death among infants during periods of polyclonal airborne dissemination; breaks in aseptic technique during i.v. medication administration may facilitate transmission from the environment to the patient. Environmental conditions that increase air conditioner condensate may predispose to airborne dissemination via contaminated aerosols and increase the risk of nosocomial A-BSI.

McDonald LC, Walker M, Carson L, Arduino M, Aguero SM, Gomez P, McNeil P, Jarvis WR

Pediatr. Infect. Dis. J. 1998 Aug;17(8):716-22

PMID: 9726347