The epidemiology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in oncology patients in a general hospital

J Infect Dis. 1989 Dec;160(6):1030-6. doi: 10.1093/infdis/160.6.1030.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonization and infection was studied over a 6-mo period in a 36-bed mixed general medical-oncology unit. We used selective media for serial surveillance cultures on 283 patients, the environment, and personnel. Twelve percent of patients were colonized on admission and 10% acquired P. aeruginosa. Using serotyping and multilocus enzyme electrophoresis, we identified 63 genetically distinctive strains; four prevalent strains accounted for 21% of isolates. Only 5 of 33 nosocomial acquisitions were due to horizontal transmission. Nine acquisitions were linked to environmental sources (e.g., sink surfaces), which often harbored antibiotic-resistant strains but posed a risk only to oncology patients. Although significant Pseudomonas infections occurred in only 11% of colonized patients, 63% of colonized severely neutropenic patients--predominantly those who had acquired the prevalent, often environmentally linked strains--developed infections. Thus, P. aeruginosa was a significant pathogen in oncology patients; typing by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis allowed the detection of important environmental sources.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pseudomonas Infections / complications
  • Pseudomonas Infections / epidemiology*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / transmission
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / classification
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / isolation & purification