Objective: A study on the molecular epidemiology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) from Germany (N = 18) and Israel (N = 12) is presented. The aim is to provide an answer to the question as to whether or not social contact outside the hospital environment involves a potential risk for person-to-person spread of this pathogen.
Methods: Sputa from German and Israeli patients were obtained while these were attending a holiday camp in Israel. The sputum samples were analysed with regard to Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Strains dissimilar in macroscopic appearance and/or antibiotic resistance patterns were genotyped using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis after digestion of genomic DNA with restriction endonuclease Spel. The genetic polymorphism of DNA fragment patterns of all strains (N = 146) was studied for their overall relatedness using a fingerprint software system.
Results: Most of the German patients (77.7%) were colonised persistently by a unique clonal type during the four-week screening period. Isolates obtained from Israeli patients displayed a very close clonal relationship and a higher antibiotic resistance as a result of preceding epidemic spread of certain clones before the camp. Additionally, isolates showing identical PFGE patterns were demonstrated once in a single male Israeli patient and in one female German patient, suggesting previous cross-colonisation.
Conclusion: The occurrence of person-to-person spread through social contact in patients with CF is supported by our findings, but remains a rare event outside the hospital environment, provided appropriate hygienic measures are applied.