Water is the essence of life—nothing can live without it, but what happens when water becomes the source of life-threatening infections? Environmental reservoirs have been linked to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), with water being one of the key accomplices.

Water sources found in the hospital can sometimes provide the right conditions to host pathogens and cause outbreaks even if the patient is not in direct contact with the reservoir, such as in the case of water-containing medical devices. These outbreaks can also be incredibly difficult to track down and stop, creating an ongoing outbreak event that ends up costing a lot of money, wasting a lot of resources, and posing a serious health risk for patients.

A good example of water contamination causing an outbreak can be seen in two recently published case studies published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID).

After tracking a rash of unusual infections, the infection control team called on epiXact®, our rapid, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) service using single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis, to help trace outbreak strains of Burholderia, Ralstoniapicketti and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. With the high resolution offered by WGS, the infection control team was able to conclusively link the outbreak with (ECMO) water heater devices which would have been otherwise challenging due to the prevalence of multiple species collected from various locations. Additional investigative work by the infection control team also linked contaminated portable water heaters to two bloodstream infections in critically ill patients.

Read the full Case Studies: 

CASE STUDY 1 : Ralstonia pickettii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bloodstream Infections Associated with Contaminated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

CASE STUDY 2 : Cluster of Burkholderia cepacia Complex Infections Associated With Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Water Heater Devices

WGS is playing an increasingly important and prevalent role in outbreak investigations of environmental transmissions. Day Zero’s epiXact HAI service gives all healthcare providers easy and cost-effective access to the transformative WGS-based transmission analysis. To learn more, please contact our world-class team of scientists to answer your questions or request an epiXact investigation.

Contact our HAI experts to learn if epiXact® is right for you so that you can be prepared for any HAI situation that may arise in the future.