Aims: We identified 10 patients with disseminated Mycobacterium chimaera infections subsequent to open-heart surgery at three European Hospitals. Infections originated from the heater-cooler unit of the heart-lung machine. Here we describe clinical aspects and treatment course of this novel clinical entity. Methods and results: Interdisciplinary care and follow-up of all patients was documented by the study team. Patients' characteristics, clinical manifestations, microbiological findings, and therapeutic measures including surgical reinterventions were reviewed and treatment outcomes are described. The 10 patients comprise a 1-year-old child and nine adults with a median age of 61 years (range 36-76 years). The median duration from cardiac surgery to diagnosis was 21 (range 5-40) months. All patients had prosthetic material-associated infections with either prosthetic valve endocarditis, aortic graft infection, myocarditis, or infection of the prosthetic material following banding of the pulmonary artery. Extracardiac manifestations preceded cardiovascular disease in some cases. Despite targeted antimicrobial therapy, M. chimaera infection required cardiosurgical reinterventions in eight patients. Six out of 10 patients experienced breakthrough infections, of which four were fatal. Three patients are in a post-treatment monitoring period. Conclusion: Healthcare-associated infections due to M. chimaera occurred in patients subsequent to cardiac surgery with extracorporeal circulation and implantation of prosthetic material. Infections became clinically apparent after a time lag of months to years. Mycobacterium chimaera infections are easily missed by routine bacterial diagnostics and outcome is poor despite long-term antimycobacterial therapy, probably because biofilm formation hinders eradication of pathogens.

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European Heart Journal
Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery

Kohler, P., Kuster, S. P., Bloemberg, G., Schulthess, B., Frank, M., Tanner, F. C., … Hasse, B. (2015). Healthcare-associated prosthetic heart valve, aortic vascular graft, and disseminated Mycobacterium chimaera infections subsequent to open heart surgery. European Heart Journal, 36(40), 2745–2753. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv342