An outbreak of Bacillus cereus respiratory tract infections on a neonatal unit due to contaminated ventilator circuits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • J Gray
  • R H George
  • G M Durbin
  • M D Hocking
  • M E Morgan

Colleges, School and Institutes


An outbreak of Bacillus cereus respiratory tract infections affecting six ventilated preterm neonates over a two-week period is described. Reusable ventilator circuits were identified as the cause of the outbreak. Ordinarily these were reprocessed on the Neonatal Unit (NNU), first through a washing machine and then through a low-temperature steam (LTS) disinfector. The onset of the outbreak coincided with a breakdown of the LTS facility, which necessitated sending the washed circuits off site for LTS disinfection. The washing machine was shown to be contaminated with the same serovars of B. cereus as those isolated from patients. Two critical steps in the off site LTS disinfection process allowed exsporulation and multiplication of B. cereus: the circuits were inadequately dried after processing, whilst return of the moist circuits to the NNU was often delayed. The outbreak was terminated by withdrawal of the heat-disinfected ventilator circuits. This outbreak emphasizes the need for high standards where medical equipment is reprocessed, especially for use in vulnerable patients.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-22
Number of pages4
JournalThe Journal of hospital infection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


  • Bacillaceae Infections, Bacillus cereus, Cross Infection, Disease Outbreaks, Disinfection, England, Equipment Contamination, Equipment Reuse, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Intensive Care Units, Neonatal, Respiratory Tract Infections, Ventilators, Mechanical