Genotyping and antibiotic susceptibility testing were used to analyze Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia strains from sink drain from 14 pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and from hospital personnel as part of a 4 week prospective study of strain transmission in a pediatric ward. A total of 87.5% of all washbasin drains were contaminated with P. aeruginosa [10(2) to 10(5) colony forming units (CFU)/ml sink fluid], whereas B. cepacia was found only once in a sink drain. From the eight CF patients already infected with P. aeruginosa upon entering the ward, we isolated six genotypes that were identical with strains found in sink drains of the ward. Four of the 16 members of the personnel had one positive P. aeruginosa hand culture. B. cepacia was never found in patients or on personnel hands. Hand washing in contaminated sinks (> or = 10(3) CFU/ml) led to positive P. aeruginosa or B. cepacia hand cultures. P. aeruginosa or B. cepacia embedded in sputum were transmissable by hand shaking for up to 180 min, whereas both pathogens suspended in physiological saline were transmissable to other hands only up to 30 min. Genotyping of P. aeruginosa revealed strain transmission from CF patients or the environment to other patients or the personnel, as well as one transmission from the environment to a CF patient. The ability of CF sputum to prolong survival of P. aeruginosa and B. cepacia may be important for strain transmission. The results suggest that improved hygienic measures are required to prevent routes of bacterial transmission via the hands and sink drains.