Armpit Thermometers Helped Spread Dangerous Fungus at UK Hospital

Armpit Thermometers Helped Spread Dangerous Fungus at UK Hospital

Armpit thermometers led to a large outbreak of drug-resistant Candida auris fungus in the United Kingdom, researchers say.

The outbreak occurred in Oxford University Hospitals' neurosciences intensive care unit.

The culprit: repeat-use axillary thermometers, the kind used to measure body temperature from the armpit.

"Despite a bundle of infection control interventions, the outbreak was only controlled following removal of the temperature probes," said Dr. David Eyre, of the university's department of medicine.

He recently presented the findings at a meeting of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, in Madrid, Spain.

The thermometers were used in 57 of 66 patients (86 percent) who were admitted to the ICU before being diagnosed with C. auris.

Thermometer use remained a strong risk factor for patients having C. auris after the researchers controlled for other factors, such as length of stay in the ICU, severity of illness and blood test results.

C. auris can cause infections in wounds and the bloodstream. Seven patients developed invasive infections, but there was no evidence that C. auris increased risk of death. The outbreak was brought under control, Eyre reported.

The findings reinforce "the need to carefully investigate the environment, and in particular multi-use patient equipment, in any unexplained health care-associated outbreak," Eyre said in a meeting news release.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on C. auris.


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