14 March 2017

A third heart surgery patient in NSW – a man in his 80s – has been confirmed with Mycobacterium chimaera infection following exposure to the rare bacteria from open heart surgery equipment used worldwide.

All three M chimaera cases in NSW underwent open heart surgery, which included a valve replacement, at Prince of Wales Hospital in 2015.

Altogether four NSW public hospitals used the affected equipment – Prince of Wales, St George, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick.

NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said the overall risk of M chimaera infections after cardiac surgery is very low but experience overseas had shown that when an M chimaera case is reported in a facility it could mean other patients who had heart surgery in that facility were also at risk, particularly if the surgery included implants, such as valves.

"Since we were first notified of the international risk posed by contaminated heater-cooler units last August we have been responding to international advice and communicating with heart surgery patients at the four NSW public hospitals that used the affected equipment," Dr Chant said.

"Patients have been asked to watch for M chimaera symptoms – persistent fevers, increasing or unusual shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss.

"We have also been sending information and updates to GPs, specialists and laboratories to alert them to the situation and enable them to support their patients. Additional resources for patients and clinicians have been made available on the NSW Health website.

"We have replaced or removed from service the machines used at all four hospitals."

Hospitals around the world, including public and private hospitals in Australia, have been affected by the equipment which is thought to have been contaminated during manufacture, and is linked to M chimaera infection in more than 100 patients worldwide. The first case in Australia was confirmed in Queensland last year.

Patients seeking further details can contact the following information lines:

  • South Eastern Sydney Local Health District - 1800 875 526 (8.00am - 5.00pm, excluding weekends and public holidays)
  • Sydney Children’s Hospital Network - 02 9845 3442 (8.00am - 5.00pm, excluding weekends and public holidays).

For further information please see the NSW Health Fact Sheet.

Page Updated: Tuesday 14 March 2017