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To identify the source of an epidemic of Burkholderia cepacia bloodstream infections during 7 years (411 episodes in 361 patients).
A 250-bed university hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.
Matched case-control and retrospective cohort studies, and microbiological surveillance and polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length ascertainment were employed. Special media and filtration techniques were used to isolate organisms from water and diluted alcohol solutions.
In a group of 50 randomly selected case-matched patients from 1999, the positive blood cultures were concomitant with fever in 98%, intravenous phlebitis in 44%, and recurrent bacteremia in 20%. Fever disappeared approximately 6 hours after intravenous catheter removal. Polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism revealed strain homogeneity in patient, water, and alcohol isolates. Contaminated tap water had been used to dilute alcohol for skin antisepsis and for decontamination of the caps of heparin vials. Only sporadic cases directly attributable to breach of protocol were reported after single-use alcohol swabs were substituted.
This is potentially the largest single-source nosocomial bloodstream infection outbreak ever reported, and the first report of an alcohol skin antiseptic contaminated by tap water as a source for nosocomial bacteremia.
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