What is pseudomonas?
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium found in soil and ground water. Healthy people are rarely affected by it. However, it is a major cause of healthcare or hospital associated infections.
The bacteria can be spread by contaminated water, inhaling water droplets, touching contaminated surfaces or it can pass from person-to-person through poor hand hygiene.
Pseudomonas is a particular risk for adults, children and babies with weakened immune systems. This includes cancer patients, severe burns patients as well as premature babies in neonatal units. For people with cystic fibrosis, it can also cause chronic lung infections.
Why are premature babies at risk?
In hospitals, pseudomonas can contaminate moist or wet reservoirs such as respiratory equipment and catheters. Infections can affect most parts of the body but are a particular concern when the bloodstream is affected.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says 1 in 4 newborn babies who develop an early-onset neonatal infection will die, even when given antibiotics. These infections are usually passed on from the mother's genital tract and include B Streptococcus (GBS), E. coli, Pseudomonas and Kiebsiella. These infections can develop suddenly and rapidly, and the death rate is particularly high in premature babies and those with a low birth weight.
Can pseudomonas infections be treated?
Pseudomonas infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started immediately after confirming the diagnosis. However, pseudomonas is increasingly resistant to many antibiotics.
Vaccines are being tested to help protect people with cystic fibrosis.
What measures should be taken to prevent infection?
Hospitals carry out risk assessments on water systems that may affect patients. This includes direct and indirect contact through for example hand washing, with special attention to special or augmented care units.