Burkholderia cepacia lower respiratory tract infection associated with exposure to a respiratory therapist

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2001 Jul;22(7):423-6. doi: 10.1086/501928.


Objective: To investigate and control a nosocomial outbreak of Burkholderia cepacia lower respiratory tract infection.

Design: Outbreak investigation and case-control study.

Setting: A 260-bed community hospital.

Patients: Participants were mechanically ventilated intensive care patients without cystic fibrosis. A case was defined as a hospitalized patient with a sputum culture positive for B. cepacia between January 1 and November 6, 1998.

Methods: Respiratory therapy infection control policies and practices were reviewed; laboratory and environmental studies and a retrospective case-control study were conducted. Case-patients were matched with control-patients on age, gender, diagnosis, and type of intensive care unit.

Results: Nine case-patients were identified; B. cepacia likely caused pneumonia in seven and colonization in two. Two respiratory therapy practices probably contributed to the transmission of B. cepacia: multidose albuterol vials were used among several patients, and nebulizer assemblies often were not dried between uses. B. cepacia was grown from cultures of three previously opened multidose vials; pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns of B. cepacia from seven case-patients and two multidose vials were indistinguishable. Case-patients had longer durations of heated humidified mechanical ventilation (mean, 9.8 days vs 4.4 days; P=.03) and were more likely to have exposure to one particular respiratory therapist than controls (odds ratio, undefined; 95% confidence interval, 4.7-infinity; P=.001). The association with the respiratory therapist, a temporary employee, persisted after controlling for duration of heated humidified ventilation. No new B. cepacia infections were identified after control measures were implemented.

Conclusions: B. cepacia probably was transmitted among patients through use of extrinsically contaminated multidose albuterol vials. Respiratory therapy departments must pay close attention to infection control practices, particularly among new or temporary staff.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Burkholderia Infections / prevention & control
  • Burkholderia Infections / transmission*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / isolation & purification*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Female
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 100 to 299
  • Hospitals, Community
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infection Control / standards
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / microbiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / transmission*
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Ventilators, Mechanical / microbiology*