Add Australia and New Zealand to the list of countries affected by Mycobacterium chimaera infections from contaminated heater-cooler devices for cardiac surgery. Researchers there reported genetic pointers to the same source seen in many U.S. and European cases, according to MedPage Today and the American Heart Association.

The problem with these slow-growing nontuberculous mycobacteria first came to light in 2015 with case reports traced back to heater-cooler use, particularly from the most popular such device — Sorin/LiveNova’s 3T — found to have source contamination at its manufacturing plant.

As infections have been publicly reported from five countries in the Northern Hemisphere, Deborah Williamson, MD, PhD, of the University of Melbourne, and colleagues reported the search in their region in a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine.

They examined 48 presumptive M. chimaera isolates collected from across Australia and New Zealand during May 2015 through July 2016 — 43 from Sorin/LiveNova 3T heater-cooler units and five from patient samples.

Whole-genome sequencing showed that the geographically distant sites had highly-related bacterial isolates, for which “the most plausible hypothesis is contamination from a single point source,” the researchers suggested.

An isolate from bone marrow of a cardiac surgery patient was identical to that of bacteria found in the only heater-cooler unit used when he was treated there. And that patient’s M. chimaera genome matched closely with that reported from infections in the Northern Hemisphere, too.

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