Non-tuberculous Mycobacterium infections associated with heater cooler devices

Key actions that Australian health service organisations should take in relation to heater-cooler devices used during cardiac surgery.

Australian health service organisations should be aware of the infection risks associated with devices that have built-in water reservoirs. A number of microorganisms are able to colonise these reservoirs. As a general principle, health service organisations should identify infection risks associated with these devices and respond with action to mitigate these risks. There is a specific risk that these devices may be contaminated with Mycobacterium chimaera (M. chimaera), and that exposure of patients to the aerosolised exhaust from these devices may cause infection. These infections may not be clinically apparent for several years after exposure.

The Commission has produced an infection control guidance document which contains advice drawn from the literature, from information developed by state and territory health authorities and from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Health service organisations should use this guidance in conjunction with safety notices, alerts or other local advice provided by their state and territory health authorities and the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Health Care.

National case definitions

To complement the Commission’s infection control guidance document, the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), in consultation with representatives from the Australian Government’s Public Health Laboratory Network and the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases, have developed a set of definitions to classify confirmed, probable and suspected cases of M. chimaera infections. These definitions were endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) in August 2017.