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Investigation of healthcare infection risks from water-related organisms: Summary of CDC consultations, 2014—2017

  • Kiran M. Perkins (a1), Sujan C. Reddy (a1), Ryan Fagan (a1), Matthew J. Arduino (a1) and Joseph F. Perz (a1)...



Water exposures in healthcare settings and during healthcare delivery can place patients at risk for infection with water-related organisms and can potentially lead to outbreaks. We aimed to describe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consultations involving water-related organisms leading to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).


Retrospective observational study.


We reviewed internal CDC records from January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2017, using water-related terms and organisms, excluding Legionella, to identify consultations that involved potential or confirmed transmission of water-related organisms in healthcare. We determined plausible exposure pathways and routes of transmission when possible.


Of 620 consultations during the study period, we identified 134 consultations (21.6%), with 1,380 patients, that involved the investigation of potential water-related HAIs or infection control lapses with the potential for water-related HAIs. Nontuberculous mycobacteria were involved in the greatest number of investigations (n = 40, 29.9%). Most frequently, investigations involved medical products (n = 48, 35.8%), and most of these products were medical devices (n = 40, 83.3%). We identified a variety of plausible water-exposure pathways, including medication preparation near water splash zones and water contamination at the manufacturing sites of medications and medical devices.


Water-related investigations represent a substantial proportion of CDC HAI consultations and likely represent only a fraction of all water-related HAI investigations and outbreaks occurring in US healthcare facilities. Water-related HAI investigations should consider all potential pathways of water exposure. Finally, healthcare facilities should develop and implement water management programs to limit the growth and spread of water-related organisms.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Kiran M Perkins, MD, 1600 Clifton Rd, MS H16-3, Atlanta, GA 20329. E-mail:


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