Information About Mycobacterium Chimaera

March 21st, 2017

Parents and guardians of children who have undergone heart surgery may have received a letter from the Belfast Trust concerning the very low risk of an infection called Mycobacterium chimaera. Below is some further information we have collated for heart families.

Information on Mycobacterium Chimaera

What is Mycobacterium chimaera and why have I have been contacted about it?
Mycobacterium chimaera is a rare bacterium. There is a very low risk that it may have contaminated certain heater-cooler devices used to regulate body temperature levels during open heart surgery.

What is the risk?
The overall risk of clinical infection during open heart surgery is deemed to be very low. Worldwide there have only been two cases documented in children. However, heart parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of any potential infection, what to look out for and what they should do. The symptoms can take a long time (possibly several years) to appear and unfortunately there is no test to tell if a patient will develop symptoms in the future.
When you next visit your child’s GP, make sure they know your child has had open heart surgery and that this is included in their medical record.

What to look out for.
The signs or symptoms of endocarditis can be associated with the infection. You should contact your GP should your child have any of the below symptoms;
– Unexplained fevers
– Unexplained weight loss
– Increasing shortness of breath
– Night Sweats
– Joint or muscular pain
– Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
– Abnormal levels of tiredness/ fatigue
– Pain, redness, heat and/or pus around the surgical site
If your doctor thinks it is important to test your child, a blood sample will be taken. Please note that these symptoms can have many different causes and are unlikely to be due to a Mycobacterium chimaera infection. In the event that your child does have a mycobacterial infection, your GP will refer you to an expert centre and a course of treatment agreed.

What actions have been taken?
An international safety notification has been issued to inform medical staff of the existence of this bacterium so they will know to include it in testing if a patient presents with symptoms of endocarditis.

Who to contact if worried.
Contact your GP who has been advised of the appropriate action but if you want to speak to someone from the Belfast Trust, an Advice Line will be operating from
– 10am until 9pm on Tuesday 21 March 2017
– 9am until 6pm on Wednesday 22 March 2017 until Friday 24 March 2017
The number to contact is 028 9063 0500

My child has had open heart surgery, why have I not been contacted about this infection?
If you have not received a letter, the Public Health Agency has deemed that your child is at minimal risk of exposure to this infection.
Children’s Heartbeat Trust would advise that all heart parents are aware of the symptoms of endocarditis and if concerned about your child for any reason, attend your GP as normal.