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J Am Coll Radiol. 2012 Mar;9(3):185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.09.018.

Outbreak of bacterial meningitis among patients undergoing myelography at an outpatient radiology clinic.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.



To investigate an outbreak of bacterial meningitis at an outpatient radiology clinic (clinic A) and to determine the source and implement measures to prevent additional infections.


A case was defined as bacterial meningitis in a patient undergoing myelography at clinic A from October 11 to 25, 2010. Patients who underwent myelography and other procedures at clinic A during that period were interviewed, medical records were reviewed, and infection prevention practices were assessed. Case-patient cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens, oral specimens from health care personnel (HCP), and opened iohexol vials were tested for bacteria. Bacterial isolates were compared using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. A culture-negative CSF specimen was tested using a real-time polymerase chain reaction assay.


Three cases were identified among 35 clinic A patients who underwent procedures from October 11 to 25, 2010. All case-patients required hospitalization, 2 in an intensive care unit. Case-patients had myelography performed by the same radiology physician assistant and technician on October 25; all patients who underwent myelography on October 25 were affected. HCP did not wear facemasks and reused single-dose iohexol vials for multiple patients. Streptococcus salivarius (a bacteria commonly found in oral flora) was detected in the CSF of 2 case-patients (1 by culture, 1 using real-time polymerase chain reaction) and in HCP oral specimens; 1 opened iohexol vial contained Staphylococcus epidermidis. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profiles from the case-patient S salivarius and the radiology physician assistant were indistinguishable.


Bacterial meningitis likely occurred because HCP performing myelography did not wear facemasks; lapses in injection practices may have contributed to transmission. Targeted education regarding mask use and safe injection practices is needed among radiology HCP.

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