A pseudo-outbreak of Rhinocladiella similis in a bronchoscopy unit of a tertiary care teaching hospital in London, United Kingdom

Alireza Abdolrasouli*, Malick M. Gibani, Theun de Groot, Andrew Borman, Peter Hoffman, Berge S. Azadian, Nabeela Mughal, Luke S.P. Moore, Elizabeth Johnson, Jacques F. Meis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Outbreaks of fungal infections due to emerging and rare species are increasingly reported in healthcare settings. We investigated a pseudo-outbreak of Rhinocladiella similis in a bronchoscopy unit of a tertiary care teaching hospital in London, UK. We aimed to determine route of healthcare-associated transmission and prevent additional infections. From July 2018 through February 2019, we detected a pseudo-outbreak of R. similis isolated from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples collected from nine patients who had undergone bronchoscopy in a multispecialty teaching hospital, during a period of 8 months. Isolates were identified by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Antifungal susceptibility testing was performed by EUCAST broth microdilution. To determine genetic relatedness among R. similis isolates, we undertook amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis. To determine the potential source of contamination, an epidemiological investigation was carried out. We reviewed patient records retrospectively and audited steps taken during bronchoscopy as well as the subsequent cleaning and decontamination procedures. Fungal cultures were performed on samples collected from bronchoscopes and automated endoscope washer-disinfector systems. No patient was found to have an infection due to R. similis either before or after bronchoscopy. One bronchoscope was identified to be used among all affected patients with positive fungal cultures. Physical damage was found in the index bronchoscope; however, no fungus was recovered after sampling of the affected scope or the rinse water of automated endoscope washer-disinfectors. Use of the scope was halted, and, during the following 12-month period, Rhinocladiella species were not isolated from any BAL specimen. All pseudo-outbreak isolates were identified as R. similis with high genetic relatedness (>90% similarity) on ALFP analysis. The study emphasises the emergence of a rare and uncommon black yeast R. similis, with reduced susceptibility to echinocandins, in a bronchoscope-related pseudo-outbreak with a potential water-related reservoir. Our findings highlight the importance of prolonged fungal culture and species-level identification of melanised yeasts isolated from bronchoscopy samples. Possibility of healthcare-associated transmission should be considered when R. similis is involved in clinical microbiology samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-404
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A. A. has received speaker's fees from Gilead Sciences Ltd. J. F. M. has received grants from Astellas, Basilea, F2G and Merck; has been a consultant to Astellas, Basilea and Scynexis; and has received speaker's fees from Astellas, Merck, United Medical, TEVA and Gilead. LSPM has consulted for bioMerieux (2013–2020), DNAelectronics (2015), Dairy Crest (2017–2018), Pfizer (2018–2020) and Umovis Lab (2020), received speaker fees from Profile Pharma (2018) and Pfizer (2018–2020), received research grants from the National Institute for Health Research (2013–2019), Leo Pharma (2016), and CW+ Charity (2018–2019), and received educational support from Eumedica (2016–2017). All other authors: none to declare.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Olga Sleigh for her assistance in searching the bronchoscope and the automated endoscope washer‐disinfector systems as a potential source of this pseudo‐outbreak. Input of Infection Control and Prevention team, Carole Fry and Jane Callaway is greatly acknowledged. LSPM acknowledges academic support from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Healthcare‐Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial College London in partnership with Public Health England. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research, or the UK Department of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley-VCH GmbH

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • AFLP
  • Rhinocladiella similis
  • bronchoscope
  • pseudo-outbreak


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