A Pittsburgh hospital says it is in the midst of "a very active investigation" after two patients died in its cardiothoracic intensive care unit, which was later found to contain mold. UPMC Presbyterian Hospital's quality control chief Tami Minnier says a fungal infection first appeared on the leg of a heart transplant patient last October. A second infection was found on the buttocks of another transplant patient this past June, reports the AP; both patients died, though doctors aren't sure whether the infections caused the deaths. Hospital officials didn't connect the two cases because they occurred so far apart and the molds in each case were different, but related. Only when a third type of fungal infection was discovered in a lung transplant patient two weeks ago did hospital workers connect the dots and the ICU was closed on Sept. 3, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Though investigators found mold in toilets and behind the walls of the unit, per WTAE, experts aren't sure if it played a role in the deaths as it was a different type than those found in patients. "It's just heartbreaking," Minnier says. "I can't tell you how many hours we have already spent trying to understand it." Minnier says a total of 56 patients have stayed in the ICU over the past year. The three patients infected were among eight transplant patients. The unit's remaining 18 patients have been removed to another part of the hospital while a remediation company clears up the mold, per the Gazette. "It's a hospital, and you bring people here to get well, not to get sick and die," says the wife of a patient. A mold expert says it’s "very unusual" to see the types of fungi found in the patients in a hospital, but it's possible recent construction projects at UPMC caused an outbreak.