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About SickKids

March 1, 2018

SickKids identifies one case of Mycobacterium chimaera infection

TORONTO – The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has identified one case of Mycobacterium chimaera infection, a type of nontuberculous mycobacterium (“NTM”), likely linked to a heater-cooler device used during a cardiovascular surgery prior to 2016.

In 2016, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S., as well as Health Canada, published recommendations on the use of heater-cooler units with regard to the risk of M. chimaera infection in cardiac surgery patients.

SickKids started using the devices, which are used to heat and cool the blood during surgery, in December 2013. Once notified of the potential risk for M. chimaera Infection, the hospital implemented a number of mitigating interventions as recommended by Health Canada. Patients who may have been exposed were notified of the risk and what signs and symptoms to monitor for.

The risk of infection remains very low, but patients and family members need to be aware of the signs and symptoms to watch for and contact their health-care provider if they are concerned.

NTM organisms are commonly found in the environment, from sources such as water and soil. They are typically not harmful to persons exposed to them and rarely cause complications. Most types of NTM that are associated with heater-cooler infections are slow-growing and it can take several months or even years for evidence of an infection to develop. The chances of getting this infection are very low. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the risk to be less than one percent.

Features of this infection may include the following: prolonged, unexplained fever; night sweats; unexplained weight loss or failure to thrive in infants; and chest pain. This infection may also be the cause of surgical site infection not responsive to usual antibiotics. Other non-specific signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle/joint pains and fatigue. These are common signs and symptoms experienced by children and are likely due to common childhood illness.

If you are a parent of a child who had heart surgery at SickKids from December 2013 forward, we suggest the following actions:

  1. If your child is experiencing the symptoms above, contact your health-care provider. Your health-care provider can contact Cardiology at SickKids as needed.
  2. If your child is well, but you do have questions, please contact our special information line at 416-813-8880. You will be asked to leave your name and phone number and someone will return your call within five business days. Alternatively, you can send an email to heater.cooler@sickkids.ca.

To assist in answering additional questions you may have, see our Frequently Asked Questions.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized child and family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca. Follow us on Twitter (@SickKidsNews) and Instagram (@SickKidsToronto).

For more information, please contact:
Jessamine Luck
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654 ext. 201436
jessamine.luck@sickkids.ca