Stenotrophomonas maltophilia contamination of nebulizers used to deliver aerosolized therapy to inpatients with cystic fibrosis

J Hosp Infect. 2003 Nov;55(3):180-3. doi: 10.1016/s0195-6701(03)00299-8.


There is circumstantial evidence that nebulizer equipment may be a source of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia for patients with cystic fibrosis. Eighty-nine inpatient nebulizers were examined for evidence of S. maltophilia contamination of which nine (10%) yielded 14 strains of the bacterium. Environmental samples were obtained from 73 different sites on the ward, of which 17 (23%) yielded a further 21 strains. Positive sites included taps, sink drains, and potable water. Genotyping using ERIC-PCR and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed that two pairs of patients' nebulizers were contaminated with closely related strains. None of the S. maltophilia isolates obtained from the ward environment shared genotypes with those obtained from the nebulizers. The frequency of isolation of S. maltophilia from potable water sources on the ward suggests that contamination may result from using it to clean reusable nebulizer equipment, particularly if this is followed by inadequate drying. Although the actual source of S. maltophilia contamination of hospital-use nebulizer equipment in this study remained elusive, these results have important infection control implications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / microbiology*
  • Stenotrophomonas maltophilia / genetics
  • Stenotrophomonas maltophilia / isolation & purification*
  • Water Microbiology


  • Aerosols