Recent molecular-typing studies suggest cross-infection as one of the potential acquisition pathways for Pseudomonas aeruginosa in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). In Australia, there is only limited evidence of unrelated patients sharing indistinguishable P. aeruginosa strains. We therefore examined the point-prevalence, distribution, diversity and clinical impact of P. aeruginosa strains in Australian CF patients nationally. 983 patients attending 18 Australian CF centres provided 2887 sputum P. aeruginosa isolates for genotyping by enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus-PCR assays with confirmation by multilocus sequence typing. Demographic and clinical details were recorded for each participant. Overall, 610 (62%) patients harboured at least one of 38 shared genotypes. Most shared strains were in small patient clusters from a limited number of centres. However, the two predominant genotypes, AUST-01 and AUST-02, were widely dispersed, being detected in 220 (22%) and 173 (18%) patients attending 17 and 16 centres, respectively. AUST-01 was associated with significantly greater treatment requirements than unique P. aeruginosa strains. Multiple clusters of shared P. aeruginosa strains are common in Australian CF centres. At least one of the predominant and widespread genotypes is associated with increased healthcare utilisation. Longitudinal studies are now needed to determine the infection control implications of these findings.
Keywords: Cross-infection; PCR; molecular typing.