Fatal outcome of lung transplantation in cystic fibrosis patients due to small-colony variants of the Burkholderia cepacia complex

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2003 Apr;22(4):249-53. doi: 10.1007/s10096-003-0901-y. Epub 2003 Mar 28.


The aim of this study was to investigate the possible role of small-colony variant morphotypes of Burkholderia cepacia-like organisms in infectious complications in cystic fibrosis patients following lung transplantation. Respiratory tract specimens from 470 cystic fibrosis patients were screened over a 22-month period for Burkholderia cepacia-like organisms. Nineteen patients were positive for these organisms, eight of whom harboured small-colony-variant morphotypes. Three patients underwent bilateral lung transplantation during the study, two of whom harboured small-colony variants in addition to clonally identical wildtypes of Burkholderia multivorans and Burkholderia cepacia genomovar III prior to lung transplantation. Both patients developed fatal systemic infections post transplantation due to small-colony variants. In vitro testing revealed that small-colony variants exhibited increased serum resistance in comparison to wildtypes. The results of this study indicate that diagnostic efforts should be undertaken to carefully identify small-colony variants of Burkholderia cepacia complex, since they might be an indicator of poor post-transplantation outcome in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Bactericidal Activity
  • Burkholderia Infections / diagnosis
  • Burkholderia Infections / microbiology
  • Burkholderia Infections / mortality*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / classification*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / growth & development
  • Burkholderia cepacia / isolation & purification*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lung Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Respiratory System / microbiology