Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas aeruginosa are strains of bacteria that are widely found in the environment. Pseudomonas is a major cause of lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis. The bacteria thrive in moist environments and equipment, such as humidifiers and catheters in hospital wards, and in kitchens, bathrooms, pools, hot tubs and sinks.

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Summary
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa are strains of bacteria that are widely found in the environment.
  • Pseudomonas is a major cause of lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis. 
  • The bacteria thrive in moist environments and equipment, such as humidifiers and catheters in hospital wards, and in kitchens, bathrooms, pools, hot tubs, and sinks.

Pseudomonas and CF

Pseudomonas infections are known as opportunistic. This means the bacteria only cause infections when a person has CF or another condition that weakens the body's immune system.

Pseudomonas are among the most common bacteria found in people with CF. About half of all people with CF have Pseudomonas. More than 60% of adults with CF have Pseudomonas.

The number of people with CF with the bacteria has been decreasing, however. Once Pseudomonas is established in the airways, it's very difficult to eliminate. But aggressive treatment can delay the development of long-term infection.

How It Spreads

Research has shown that people with CF can get Pseudomonas from others who are infected with these bacteria. The germs can spread by direct or indirect contact. Direct contact includes things like kissing. Indirect contact includes things like touching objects that have been touched by a person who has the germ, such as doorknobs or pens. This is called cross-infection. Cross-infection can happen in social settings like events or meetings. 

For many people with CF, infection with Pseudomonas cannot be traced back to exposure to another infected person. In these cases, infection is believed to have occurred by exposure to Pseudomonas in the natural environment.

Reducing the Risk

At a CF care center, the care team works to prevent the spread of Pseudomonas between people with CF by taking infection prevention and control measures. These include:

  • Frequent cleaning of hands
  • Wearing gowns and gloves
  • Helping people with CF keep a safe distance from each other when they visit the care center and when they are admitted to the hospital

CF Foundation-accredited care centers also follow strict procedures when cleaning care center rooms, pulmonary function labs, and respiratory therapy equipment to reduce the risk of spreading germs.

If you are worried about your risk of getting or spreading germs at your care center or in the hospital, talk to a member of your care center team. Remember, you are an important member of your CF care team. Talk to your team about their efforts to minimize the risk of cross-infection between people with CF. 

Diagnosing Pseudomonas

After a doctor or nurse gets a throat or sputum culture from a person with CF, the laboratory tests the culture in a specific way to help find any Pseudomonas species. Ask your CF care center about the results of your last throat or sputum culture.

Keep in mind that medical evidence shows that everyone living with CF could have germs that might spread to others with CF. Plus, sputum cultures may not find all germs that could spread among people with CF.

Download the Foundation's latest Patient Registry to see how many people have Pseudomonas.

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