Burkholderia cepacia complex bacteria from clinical and environmental sources in Italy: genomovar status and distribution of traits related to virulence and transmissibility

J Clin Microbiol. 2002 Mar;40(3):846-51. doi: 10.1128/JCM.40.3.846-851.2002.


Sixty-eight Burkholderia cepacia complex isolates recovered from the sputum of 53 cystic fibrosis patients and 75 isolates collected from the maize rhizosphere were compared to each other to assess their genomovar status as well as some traits related to virulence such as antibiotic susceptibility, proteolytic and hemolytic activities, and transmissibility, in which transmissibility is determined by detection of the esmR and cblA genes. Among the clinical isolates, B. cepacia genomovar III comprised the majority of isolates examined and only a very few isolates were assigned to B. cepacia genomovar I, B. stabilis, and B. pyrrocinia; among the environmental isolates a prevalence of B. cepacia genomovar III and B. ambifaria was observed, whereas few environmental isolates belonging to B. cepacia genomovar I and B. pyrrocinia were found. Antibiotic resistance analysis revealed a certain degree of differentiation between clinical and environmental isolates. Proteolytic activity and onion tissue maceration ability were found to be spread equally among both clinical and environmental isolates, whereas larger percentages of environmental isolates than clinical isolates had hemolytic activity. The esmR gene was found exclusively among isolates belonging to B. cepacia genomovar III, with a marked prevalence in clinical isolates, whereas only one clinical isolate belonging to B. cepacia genomovar III was found to bear the cblA gene. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that the species compositions of the clinical and environmental B. cepacia complex populations examined are quite different and that some of the candidate determinants related to virulence and transmissibility are not confined solely to clinical isolates but are also spread among environmental isolates belonging to different species of the B. cepacia complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burkholderia cepacia / drug effects
  • Burkholderia cepacia / genetics*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / pathogenicity
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Fimbriae Proteins
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Virulence


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Fimbriae Proteins