Hiding in Plain Sight: Contaminated Ice Machines Are a Potential Source for Dissemination of Gram-Negative Bacteria and Candida Species in Healthcare Facilities

  • Anubhav Kanwar, Jennifer L. Cadnum, Dongyan Xu, Annette L. Jencson, Curtis J. Donskey
  • Infection Control, January 2018, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/ice.2017.321

Ice-machines are often contaminated with bacteria or yeast and can spread to users

What is it about?

Bacteria and yeast thrive in moist environments. In hospitals, contaminated water systems have been linked to transmission of serious pathogens such as Legionella and multidrug-resistant bacteria. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in outbreaks of infection associated with hospital sinks. Ice machines have also been linked to outbreaks of infection in hospitals. At the Cleveland VA Medical Center, researchers previously reported that a multidrug-resistant organism was recovered from an ice machine, hands of a nurse, and patients. In the online issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the same researchers report the findings of an investigation to understand how such pathogens could spread from ice machines to patients. In 5 hospitals and 2 nursing homes in Ohio, bacteria and/or yeast were found in 100% of ice machine drain pans, 52% of ice or water chutes, and 72% of drain-pan grilles. While using ice machines, ice falling through the grille frequently resulted in dispersal of bacteria or yeast from the drain pan, causing contamination of cups and the hands of users.

Why is it important?

Our findings clearly demonstrate that ice machines are almost always contaminated with bacteria or yeast and provide a mechanism for spread to patients. This is particularly important as ice machines are often used by hospital staff, visitors, and patients.


Anubhav Kanwar
Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

I personally think that we clearly need effective methods to clean ice machines and improved designs that minimize risk to patients. Hand hygiene before and after using ice machines will certainly be a good habit to inculcate.

Read Publication


The following have contributed to this page: Anubhav Kanwar