Environmental contamination with an epidemic strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a Liverpool cystic fibrosis centre, and study of its survival on dry surfaces

J Hosp Infect. 2005 Feb;59(2):102-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2004.09.018.


We conducted an environmental survey in the Liverpool adult cystic fibrosis (CF) centre in order to determine the extent of environmental contamination with an epidemic strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that colonizes most CF patients in Liverpool, and to identify possible reservoirs and routes of cross-infection. In addition, we studied the survival of this strain on dry surfaces, compared with that of other CF P. aeruginosa strains, to explore factors that might contribute to its high transmissibility. Samples were collected from staff, patients and the environment (drains, bath tubs, showers, dry surfaces, respiratory equipment and air) in the inpatient ward and outpatient clinic. P. aeruginosa strains were tested using a new polymerase chain reaction amplification assay specific for the Liverpool epidemic strain (LES). LES was isolated from patients' hands, clothes and bed linen. Environmental contamination with LES was only detected in close proximity to colonized patients (external surfaces of their respiratory equipment, and spirometry machine tubing and chair) and was short-lived. No persistent environmental reservoirs were found. LES was detected in the majority of air samples from inside patients' rooms, the ward corridor and the outpatient clinic. Survival of LES on dry surfaces was significantly longer than that for some other strains tested, but not compared with other strains shown not to be transmissible. Improved environmental survival on its own, therefore, cannot explain the high transmissibility of this epidemic strain. Our study suggests that airborne dissemination plays a significant role in patient-to-patient spread of LES, and confirms the need to segregate those patients colonized by epidemic P. aeruginosa strains from all other CF patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Hospital Units
  • Humans
  • Pseudomonas Infections / epidemiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / prevention & control
  • Pseudomonas Infections / transmission*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / classification
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / isolation & purification*