CDC: Patients who died likely breathed in mold

Associated Press

Pittsburgh — Three organ transplant patients who developed mold infections before dying at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center likely breathed in the mold spores, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

CDC officials determined that although those patients appeared to have had skin contact with the mold, a more careful review of their medical records indicates they developed pneumonia, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Friday. That’s important because the hospital network had focused on bed linens as a possible mold source, though that’s yet to be determined.

As a precaution, the medical center began wrapping linens in plastic until they are used in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at UPMC Presbyterian hospital and may continue doing so, despite the CDC findings.

That’s probably still a good idea, said Dr. Michael Bell, the CDC’s deputy director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.

“Anytime something like this happens, it’s a chance to review your protocols,” Bell said.

UPMC temporarily shut down its ICU on Sept. 3 because of the three infected patients, though it wasn’t announced publicly until Sept. 14.

A fourth patient, a lung transplant recipient who is still alive, was said to be infected Sept. 17 and UPMC voluntarily closed its transplant program for six days, starting Sept. 21.

UPMC has said it hasn’t been conclusively determined that the mold led to those deaths, although the attorney for one heart transplant patient’s family has since said an autopsy report lists the mold infection as her primary cause of death. That family has not yet filed a lawsuit.

The CDC has taken environmental samples from UPMC Presbyterian and nearby UPMC Montefiore, another nearby transplant hospital. Investigators also collected samples of the molds identified in three of the four infected patients.

The CDC is expected to complete its report on the mold issue in a few weeks.