UPMC Provides Update on Fungal Infections at UPMC Presbyterian, Montefiore

By: Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., UPMC chief medical and scientific officer

First, the lung transplant patient who was discovered to have a fungal infection earlier this month continues to fight the infection at UPMC Presbyterian hospital. His condition can be described as ‘guarded.’Presby1

We are still awaiting the results of mold cultures on samples we’ve performed in various locations throughout UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore hospitals. These include air, surface and water samples.

It is important to remember that our visitors, staff and the vast majority of our patients are not at risk. The mold that causes these types of infections is common in the environment and does not cause a problem for anyone but those with the most severely compromised immune systems. Among transplant patients with suppressed immune systems these fungal infections are rare, but occur at most major transplant centers without any discernable source.

In consultation with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system, UPMC has chosen to voluntarily and temporarily suspend all organ transplant operations at UPMC Presbyterian until we have completed our investigation and are satisfied that we’ve done all we can do to address the situation.

We – working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) – have been in contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and leading fungal experts to review our next steps. In fact, a CDC team will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow to work alongside our experts as they conduct their investigation. We expect this temporary transplant postponement will be resolved in two to three days.

UPMC is reaching out to all of our patients with scheduled organ transplants to inform them of the situation and develop an appropriate plan for their clinical management. We will do everything we can to make sure patients receive life-saving transplants if they are critically ill.

As always, UPMC puts the needs of our patients first and we are assisting them in their health care needs and providing other valuable support as we work through this situation.

As our investigation continues, these are among the many steps UPMC has taken:

  • Eleven recent transplant patients still at UPMC Presbyterian or recently discharged have been placed on a new antifungal medication even though there is no sign of infection in any of these patients.
  • Our infection prevention experts continue to report to and consult with the Allegheny County Health Department, the state DOH, The Joint Commission, UNOS and the CDC. We value their expertise.
  • We are consulting with UPMC, local and national mold and hospital environment specialists.
  • As a precaution, linens for our immunocompromised patients will remain completely sealed in plastic from the moment they leave the cleaning facility until they arrive in our intensive care unit. While we do not have evidence that linens were involved in the fungal infections at UPMC, they have been found to be the culprit in mold cases at other hospitals nationwide.
  • We are assessing air seals around windows and doors throughout our facilities to make sure outside air is not finding its way into patient rooms, and assessing and culturing medical equipment used on the patients who developed the fungal infections.
  • We’ve completed precautionary replacement of microfilters in all our air handling units.
  • We’re continuing air quality monitoring inside and outside the hospitals. We have not had any concerning results.
  • Our UV disinfecting robots are adding an extra layer of disinfection to all of our ICUs.

Our hospitals are safe and continue to provide world-class care. UPMC last year performed more than 400 life-saving organ transplants. We take this situation extremely seriously and we have our top experts, as well as outside experts, working tirelessly around the clock and every day to get to the source of the problem and fix it.


It is best if patients with concerns contact their physicians, who will be familiar with their care. If their physician needs further information, they can contact infection prevention at UPMC. Our staff can call Employee Health if they have questions or concerns. We also set up a hotline that anyone can call if they have questions or concerns: 412-864-0250 or 844-783-2412.