Heather O'Connell

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Michigan, United States

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Publications (12)34.47 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Mucormycosis is an invasive fungal infection with a high fatality rate. We investigated an outbreak of mucormycosis in a pediatric hospital to determine routes of pathogen transmission from the environment and prevent additional infections. A case was defined as a hospital-onset illness consistent with mucormycosis, confirmed by culture or histopathology. Case-patient medical records were reviewed for clinical course and exposure to items and locations within the hospital. Environmental samples were collected from air and surfaces. Fungal isolates collected from case-patients and the environment were identified using DNA sequencing. Five case-patients had hospital-associated cutaneous mucormycosis over an eleven month period; all subsequently died. Three case-patients had conditions known to be associated with susceptibility to mucormycosis, while two had cardiac conditions with persistent acidosis. The cases occurred on several different wards throughout the hospital, and hospital linens were the only exposure identified as common to the case-patients. Rhizopus species were recovered from 26 (42%) of 62 environmental samples from clean linens and associated areas, and from one (4%) of 25 samples from non-linen-related items. Case-patients were infected with Rhizopusdelemar, which was also isolated from cultures of clean linens and clean linen delivery bins from the off-site laundry facility. Hospital linens were identified as a vehicle that carried Rhizopusdelemar into contact with susceptible patients. Fungal species identification using DNA-based methods is useful for corroborating epidemiologic links in hospital outbreak investigations. Hospital linens should be laundered, packaged, shipped, and stored in a manner that minimizes exposure to environmental contaminants.
    The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 03/2014; · 3.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated a cluster of 10 Burkholderia cepacia complex-positive cultures among ventilated patients and those with a tracheostomy in an acute care hospital. Isolates from 5 patients had outbreak-strain-related Burkholderia contaminans. Isolates of B. cepacia complex unrelated to the outbreak strain were cultured from a sink drain. The investigation identified practices that might have led to contamination of patient respiratory care supplies with tap water, which might have contributed to the cluster.
    American journal of infection control 08/2013; · 3.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated an increase in Trichosporon asahii isolates among inpatients. We identified 63 cases; 4 involved disseminated disease. Trichosporon species was recovered from equipment cleaning rooms, washbasins, and fomites, which suggests transmission through washbasins. Patient washbasins should be single-patient use only; adherence to appropriate hospital disinfection guidelines was recommended.
    Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 06/2013; 34(6):638-41. · 4.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Water in healthcare environments can be a source for healthcare-associated infections (HAI). However, information on the exposure risk to opportunistic pathogens in potable water distribution systems (PWDS) is lacking. Laboratory studies characterizing the interaction of opportunistic pathogens with biofilms are needed to understand their role in water systems within healthcare facilities. A stable, repeatable, PWDS multi-species biofilm model comprising Sphingomonas paucimobilis, Methylobacterium sp., Delftia acidovorans, and Mycobacterium mucogenicum was developed in the CDC Biofilm Reactor (CBR), reaching 6 log(10) CFU cm(-2) within 6 days. The model was used to investigate the interaction of the opportunistic pathogen M. mucogenicum with the other species, and to determine the efficacy of monochloramine (NH(2)Cl) as a disinfectant against 2-week-old biofilms. Addition of 1 or 2 mg l(-1) NH(2)Cl resulted in the same or an increased log density of viable M. mucogenicum in the biofilm while inactivating some of the Proteobacteria. Although M. mucogenicum preferentially resided in the biofilm, NH(2)Cl exposure caused release of viable M. mucogenicum from the biofilm into the water. Additional studies with this model should determine if sodium hypochlorite has a comparative effect and if other nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) respond to NH(2)Cl similarly.
    Biofouling 11/2012; 28(10):1129-39. · 3.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate an outbreak of bacterial meningitis at an outpatient radiology clinic (clinic A) and to determine the source and implement measures to prevent additional infections. A case was defined as bacterial meningitis in a patient undergoing myelography at clinic A from October 11 to 25, 2010. Patients who underwent myelography and other procedures at clinic A during that period were interviewed, medical records were reviewed, and infection prevention practices were assessed. Case-patient cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens, oral specimens from health care personnel (HCP), and opened iohexol vials were tested for bacteria. Bacterial isolates were compared using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. A culture-negative CSF specimen was tested using a real-time polymerase chain reaction assay. Three cases were identified among 35 clinic A patients who underwent procedures from October 11 to 25, 2010. All case-patients required hospitalization, 2 in an intensive care unit. Case-patients had myelography performed by the same radiology physician assistant and technician on October 25; all patients who underwent myelography on October 25 were affected. HCP did not wear facemasks and reused single-dose iohexol vials for multiple patients. Streptococcus salivarius (a bacteria commonly found in oral flora) was detected in the CSF of 2 case-patients (1 by culture, 1 using real-time polymerase chain reaction) and in HCP oral specimens; 1 opened iohexol vial contained Staphylococcus epidermidis. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profiles from the case-patient S salivarius and the radiology physician assistant were indistinguishable. Bacterial meningitis likely occurred because HCP performing myelography did not wear facemasks; lapses in injection practices may have contributed to transmission. Targeted education regarding mask use and safe injection practices is needed among radiology HCP.
    Journal of the American College of Radiology: JACR 03/2012; 9(3):185-90.
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    ABSTRACT: We recently investigated three cases of bacterial meningitis that were reported from a midwestern radiology clinic where facemasks were not worn during spinal injection of contrast agent during myelography procedures. Using pulsed field gel electrophoresis we linked a case strain of S. salivarius to an oral specimen of a radiology physician assistant (RPA). We also used a real-time PCR assay to detect S. salivarius DNA within a culture-negative cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimen. Here we extend this investigation through using a nested PCR/sequencing strategy to link the culture-negative CSF specimen to the case strain. We also provide validation of the real-time PCR assay used, demonstrating that it is not solely specific for Streptococcus salivarius, but is also highly sensitive for detection of the closely related oral species Streptococcus vestibularis. Through using multilocus sequence typing and 16S rDNA sequencing we further strengthen the link between the CSF case isolate and the RPA carriage isolate. We also demonstrate that the newly characterized strains from this study are distinct from previously characterized S. salivarius strains associated with carriage and meningitis.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(2):e32169. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This work was initiated to address the gaps identified by Congress regarding validated biothreat environmental sampling and processing methods. Nine Laboratory Response Network-affiliated laboratories participated in a validation study of a cellulose sponge wipe-processing protocol for the recovery, detection, and quantification of viable Bacillus anthracis Sterne spores from steel surfaces. Steel coupons (645.16 cm(2)) were inoculated with 1 to 4 log(10) spores and then sampled with cellulose sponges (Sponge-Stick; 3M, St. Paul, MN). Surrogate dust and background organisms were added to the sponges to mimic environmental conditions. Labs processed the sponges according to the provided protocol. Sensitivity, specificity, and mean percent recovery (%R), between-lab variability, within-lab variability, and total percent coefficient of variation were calculated. The mean %R (standard error) of spores from the surface was 32.4 (4.4), 24.4 (2.8), and 30.1 (2.3) for the 1-, 2-, and 4-log(10) inoculum levels, respectively. Sensitivities for colony counts were 84.1%, 100%, and 100% for the 1-, 2-, and 4-log(10) inocula, respectively. These data help to characterize the variability of the processing method and thereby enhance confidence in the interpretation of the results of environmental sampling conducted during a B. anthracis contamination investigation.
    Applied and environmental microbiology 09/2011; 77(23):8355-9. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    A M Shams, H O'Connell, M J Arduino, L J Rose
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    ABSTRACT: To evaluate the efficacy of chlorine dioxide (ClO(2)) against seven species of bacterial threat (BT) agents in water. Two strains of Bacillus anthracis spores, Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderia mallei and Brucella species were each inoculated into a ClO(2) solution with an initial concentration of 2.0 (spores only) and 0.25 mg l(-1) (all other bacteria) at pH 7 or 8, 5 or 25°C. At 0.25 mg l(-1) in potable water, six species were inactivated by at least three orders of magnitude within 10 min. Bacillus anthracis spores required up to 7 h at 5°C for the same inactivation with 2.0 mg l(-1) ClO(2). Typical ClO(2) doses used in water treatment facilities would be effective against all bacteria tested except B. anthracis spores that would require up to 7 h with the largest allowable dose of 2 mg l(-1) ClO(2). Other water treatment processes may be required in addition to ClO(2) disinfection for effective spore removal or inactivation. The data obtained from this study provide valuable information for water treatment facilities and public health officials in the event that a potable water supply is contaminated with these BT agents.
    Letters in Applied Microbiology 05/2011; 53(2):225-30. · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To determine the range of free available chlorine (FAC) required for disinfection of the live vaccine strain (LVS) and wild-type strains of Francisella tularensis. Seven strains of planktonic F. tularensis were exposed to 0·5 mg·l(-1) FAC for two pH values, 7 and 8, at 5 and 25°C. LVS was inactivated 2 to 4 times more quickly than any of the wild-type F. tularensis strains at pH 8 and 5°C. Free available chlorine residual concentrations routinely maintained in drinking water distribution systems would require up to two hours to reduce all F. tularensis strains by 4 log10. LVS was inactivated most quickly of the tested strains. This work provides contact time (CT) values that are useful for drinking water risk assessment and also suggests that LVS may not be a good surrogate in disinfection studies.
    Letters in Applied Microbiology 01/2011; 52(1):84-6. · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Twelve Laboratory Response Network (LRN) affiliated laboratories participated in a validation study of a macrofoam swab protocol for the recovery, detection, and quantification of viable B. anthracis (BA) Sterne spores from steel surfaces. CDC personnel inoculated steel coupons (26cm(2)) with 1-4 log(10) BA spores and recovered them by sampling with pre-moistened macrofoam swabs. Phase 1 (P1) of the study evaluated swabs containing BA only, while dust and background organisms were added to swabs in Phase 2 (P2) to mimic environmental conditions. Laboratories processed swabs and enumerated spores by culturing eluted swab suspensions and counting colonies with morphology consistent with BA. Processed swabs were placed in enrichment broth, incubated 24h, and cultured by streaking for isolation. Real-time PCR was performed on selected colonies from P2 samples to confirm the identity of BA. Mean percent recovery (%R) of spores from the surface ranged from 15.8 to 31.0% (P1) and from 27.9 to 55.0% (P2). The highest mean percent recovery was 31.0% (sd 10.9%) for P1 (4 log(10) inoculum) and 55.0% (sd 27.6%) for P2 (1 log(10) inoculum). The overall %R was higher for P2 (44.6%) than P1 (24.1%), but the overall reproducibility (between-lab variability) was lower in P2 than in P1 (25.0 vs 16.5%CV, respectively). The overall precision (within-lab variability) was close to identical for P1 and P2 (44.0 and 44.1, respectively), but varied greatly between inoculum levels. The protocol demonstrated linearity in %R over the three inoculum levels and is able to detect between 26 and 5x10(6)spores/26cm(2). Sensitivity as determined by culture was >98.3% for both phases and all inocula, suggesting that the culture method maintains sensitivity in the presence of contaminants. The enrichment broth method alone was less sensitive for sampled swabs (66.4%) during P2, suggesting that the presence of background organisms inhibited growth or isolation of BA from the broth. The addition of real-time PCR testing to the assay increased specificity from >85.4% to >95.0% in P2. Although the precision was low at the 1 log(10) inoculum level in both phases (59.0 and 50.2%), this swab processing protocol, was sensitive, specific, precise, and reproducible at 2-4 log(10)/26cm(2) spore concentrations.
    Journal of microbiological methods 02/2010; 81(2):141-6. · 2.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Burkholderia pseudomallei is a select agent and the causative agent of melioidosis. Variations in previously reported chlorine and monochloramine concentration time (Ct) values for disinfection of this organism make decisions regarding the appropriate levels of chlorine in water treatment systems difficult. This study identified the variation in Ct values for 2-, 3-, and 4-log(10) reductions of eight environmental and clinical isolates of B. pseudomallei in phosphate-buffered water. The greatest calculated Ct values for a 4-log(10) inactivation were 7.8 mg.min/liter for free available chlorine (FAC) at pH 8 and 5 degrees C and 550 mg.min/liter for monochloramine at pH 8 and 5 degrees C. Ionic strength of test solutions, culture hold times in water, and cell washing were ruled out as sources of the differences in prior observations. Tolerance to FAC was correlated with the relative amount of extracellular material produced by each isolate. Solid-phase cytometry analysis using an esterase-cleaved fluorochrome assay detected a 2-log(10)-higher level of organisms based upon metabolic activity than did culture, which in some cases increased Ct values by fivefold. Despite strain-to-strain variations in Ct values of 17-fold for FAC and 2.5-fold for monochloramine, standard FAC disinfection practices utilized in the United States should disinfect planktonic populations of these B. pseudomallei strains by 4 orders of magnitude in less than 10 min at the tested temperatures and pH levels.
    Applied and environmental microbiology 07/2009; 75(16):5405-9. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    L J Rose, H O'Connell
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    ABSTRACT: Seven species of bacterial biothreat agents were tested for susceptibility to UV light (254 nm). All gram-negative organisms tested required <12 mJ/cm(2) for a 4-log(10) reduction in viability (inactivation). Tailing off of the B. anthracis spore inactivation curves began close to the 2-log(10) inactivation point, with a fluence of approximately 40 mJ/cm(2), and 3-log(10) inactivation still was not achieved with a fluence of 120 mJ/cm(2).
    Applied and environmental microbiology 03/2009; 75(9):2987-90. · 3.69 Impact Factor