Home-use nebulizers: a potential primary source of Burkholderia cepacia and other colistin-resistant, gram-negative bacteria in patients with cystic fibrosis

J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Mar;34(3):584-7. doi: 10.1128/jcm.34.3.584-587.1996.


Inhalation of aerosols contaminated with gram-negative bacteria generated from home-use nebulizers used by cystic fibrosis (CF) patients may be a primary route for bacterial colonization of the lung. Burkholderia cepacia was isolated from 3 of [corrected] 35 home-use nebulizers, and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia was isolated from 4 of 35 home-use nebulizers. Sputum cultures for two patients whose nebulizers were contaminated with B. cepacia did not yield the organism. However, DNA macrorestriction analysis by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis confirmed that one of two strains of B. cepacia recovered from the nebulizer of a third patient was also present in the sputum of that patient. Although Pseudomonas aeruginosa was isolated from 34 patients, none of the nebulizers were positive for the organism. Sixty-nine percent of nebulizers were contaminated, and up to 16 different environmental colistin-resistant, gram-negative species were identified. The heaviest contamination was found beneath the chamber atomizer. A questionnaire survey showed that the majority of patients (28 of 34) were receiving nebulized colistin and/or gentamicin. Patients who followed recommended instructions for good nebulizer hygienic practice and paid particular attention to drying had minimal or no contamination of their nebulizers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Burkholderia cepacia / isolation & purification*
  • Colistin / pharmacology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Colistin