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Fungal infection ‘cluster’ among heart transplant patients at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital

Five heart transplant patients at a major Brisbane hospital have suffered fungal infections — one of them fatal — sparking an investigation into the “cluster”.

Three of the patients at Prince Charles Hospital in Chermside developed their infection before September, while two more cases occurred last month.

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7NEWS understands one of the patients died in September of multiple complications. The fungal infection is believed to have possibly contributed to their death.

Air quality testing in the hospital has not found levels of fungal spores that would warrant concerns of infection.

However, one of the patients had not been discharged from the hospital when they suffered the infection.

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“Air testing has not revealed a high spore count in any of the critical areas,” said the hospital’s infectious disease expert Alex Chaudhuri.

“It was also looked for in storage areas where heart transplant equipment is kept — that’s where they did find some fungal spores, although I don’t believe the connection between that and the infections would be plausible.

“But we looked at that to be thorough.”

Prince Charles Hospital doctors Alex Chaudhuri (right) and George Javorsky have spoken about the infection cluster. Credit: 7NEWS

The patients have been treated with “routine anti-fungal treatment”, Chaudhuri said.

The hospital has also taken steps to prevent future cases, including increasing patients’ anti-fungal antibiotics and making them wear masks.

“Patients who’ve had a heart transplant, we give them anti-rejection drugs that suppress their immune system,” said George Javorsky, the director of heart transplants at the hospital.

“By doing so, each patient is much more susceptible to any form of infection.

“Fungal spores are everywhere in the environment and a person with a normal immune system would not get an infection from that.”

Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said she had been “made aware” of the cluster.

“I have been advised immediate steps were taken to conduct a deep clean and thorough investigation,” she said.

“I understand all patients have been contacted and I am advised by senior clinicians at the hospital that future patients will not be impacted, and the service is safe.”

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