Fluctuations in phenotypes and genotypes within populations of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the cystic fibrosis lung during pulmonary exacerbations

J Med Microbiol. 2010 Apr;59(Pt 4):472-481. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.015875-0. Epub 2009 Dec 17.


Chronic respiratory infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa contributes significantly to the morbidity and mortality associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Using a series of phenotypic and genotypic tests on collections of 40 isolates per sputum sample, we analysed fluctuations within sputum populations of the P. aeruginosa Liverpool epidemic strain (LES) during pulmonary exacerbations. For each of three patients, three sequential sputum samples were analysed: (1) on presentation with exacerbation at the Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, Liverpool; (2) a few days into intravenous antibiotic treatment; (3) when the patient had recovered. Fluctuations were observed in morphotype distribution, the production of virulence-associated quorum-sensing-dependent exoproducts (the phenazine compound pyocyanin and the elastase LasA), antibiotic susceptibility profiles and levels of auxotrophy. PCR assays were used to screen isolates for the presence of novel regions of the LES genome (islands and prophages) and to detect free phages. In one patient there was an increase in the prevalence of the LESGI-5 genomic island during the sampling period from 10 to 97.5 % carriage. LES phages 2-4 were detected in either the majority or all sputum samples tested, indicating widespread phage activity during the sampling period. The results of this study are indicative that significant fluctuations occur within P. aeruginosa populations during short periods of pulmonary exacerbation and intravenous antibiotic therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteriophages / isolation & purification
  • Ciprofloxacin / pharmacology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lung / microbiology*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Phenotype
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / classification*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / virology
  • Sputum / microbiology


  • Ciprofloxacin