Detection of hepatitis C virus in an exhumed body identified the origin of a nosocomial transmission that caused multiple fatal diseases

J. McDermott, S. G. Parisi, I. Martini, C. Boldrin, E. Franchin, F. Dal Bello, A. Gianelli Castiglione, E. Boeri, M. Sampaolo, M. Basso, P. Menegazzi, L. Tagliaferro, G. Palù, O. E. Varnier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Medico-legal conflicts arise when it is difficult to prove the cause of nosocomial infections. Aim: To report an outbreak of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) through the repeated use of a multi-dose saline flask during the rinsing of central venous catheters. Methods: Blood samples were taken from each patient for the comparative analysis of their HCV RNA strains. No samples were available for one patient who died before the investigation started. Despite the known lability of HCV RNA, the body was exhumed four months after burial and postmortem samples were collected. HCV RNA was extracted successfully from liver and spleen samples. Genotyping of all the HCV strains was performed by sequence analysis of the 5′NC untranslated region, the E1 core conserved region and the E1/E2 hypervariable region. Findings: Forensic investigators retraced the route used by two ward nurses, when saline catheter flushes were given to 14 patients with each nurse administering to seven patients. The comparative phylogenetic analysis of all case strains identified the deceased patient as the source of contamination to five patients. Conclusions: This study highlights the value of sequence analysis as a tool for solving medico-legal conflicts. The High Court of Justice found that a health worker's re-use of a contaminated needle resulted in the nosocomial transmission of HCV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-336
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Volume102
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Exhumed body
  • HCV
  • Nosocomial transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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