Disproportionate distribution of Burkholderia cepacia complex species and transmissibility markers in cystic fibrosis

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Jul 1;164(1):92-6. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.164.1.2011153.


Several distinct species (genomovars) comprise bacteria previously identified merely as Burkholderia cepacia. Understanding how these species, collectively referred to as the B. cepacia complex, differ in their epidemiology and pathogenic potential in cystic fibrosis (CF) is important in efforts to refine management strategies. B. cepacia isolates recovered from 606 CF patients receiving care at 132 treatment centers in 105 cities in the United States were assessed to determine species within the B. cepacia complex and examined for the presence of putative transmissibility markers (B. cepacia epidemic strain marker [BCESM] and cable pilin subunit gene [cblA]). Fifty percent of patients were infected with B. cepacia complex genomovar III, 38% with B. multivorans (formerly genomovar II), and 5% with B. vietnamiensis (formerly genomovar V); fewer than 5% of patients were infected with either genomovar I, B. stabilis (formerly genomovar IV), genomovar VI, or genomovar VII. BCESM was found in 46% of genomovar III isolates and not in any other species. Only one isolate, from a patient infected with the ET12 epidemic lineage, contained the complete cblA pilin subunit gene. Our data indicate a differential capacity for human infection among the phylogenetically closely related species of the B. cepacia complex. The low frequency of BCESM and cblA suggests that they are not sufficient markers of B. cepacia virulence or transmissibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burkholderia Infections / transmission
  • Burkholderia cepacia / genetics*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / isolation & purification*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / pathogenicity
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Registries
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Species Specificity
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • United States