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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 1993 Aug;14(8):459-62.

Dissemination of Bacillus cereus in an intensive care unit.

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Division of Medical Microbiology, Vancouver General Hospital, British Columbia, Canada.



To report the contamination of ventilator equipment with Bacillus cereus and to outline the measures taken to trace the source of the organism.


A prospective survey of all intensive care unit patients who were culture-positive for B cereus and obtaining of environmental cultures of the cleaning and assembly area of the respiratory services division between October 1991 and September 1992.


Ventilated patients from a 16-bed medical and surgical intensive care unit (ICU) in a 1,000-bed adult tertiary care hospital.


From October 1991 to April 1992, B cereus colonized the ventilator circuitry of patients in the ICU. One of two washer/decontaminators in the cleaning and assembly area of the respiratory services division was found to yield the microorganism consistently from the water intake port. The design of the machine precluded easy decontamination of the port with 2% glutaraldehyde and a second outbreak occurred. Following the second outbreak, aqueous chlorhexidine in a final concentration of 0.05% was added to the first of two pasteurization cycles in an attempt to achieve sporicidal activity. This ended the outbreak. Sixty-two patients became colonized with the organism including two with nonfatal Bacillus sepsis and one death due to pneumonia associated with the organism.


This experience emphasizes the importance of obtaining cultures of machine parts to identify the source of contamination and thereby direct control measures. Use of chlorhexidine gluconate at high temperatures effectively eradicated B cereus from ventilator circuitry in a practical and cost-effective manner.

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