Pseudomonas

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Overview

In 1882, Gessard first discovered Pseudomonas, a strictly aerobic, gram-negative bacterium of relatively low virulence. The organism is ubiquitous, with a predilection to moist environments, primarily as waterborne and soilborne organisms. Pseudomonal species have been found in soil, water, plants, and animals; Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonization reportedly occurs in more than 50% of humans, and P aeruginosa is the most common pseudomonal species.

Pseudomonas is a clinically significant and opportunistic pathogen, often causing nosocomial infections. In addition to causing serious and often life-threatening diseases, these organisms exhibit innate resistance to many antibiotics and can develop new resistance after exposure to antimicrobial agents


Symptoms

Ears: pain and discharge.

Skin: rash, which can include pimples filled with pus.

Eyes:pain, redness, swelling.

Bones or joints: joint pain and swelling; neck or back pain that lasts weeks.

Wounds: green pus or discharge that may have a fruity smell.

Digestive tract: headache, diarrhea.

Causes

You can get pseudomonas in many different ways. It can grow on fruits and vegetables, so you could get sick from eating contaminated food. It also thrives in moist areas like pools, hot tubs, bathrooms, kitchens, and sinks.

The most severe infections occur in hospitals. Pseudomonas can easily grow in humidifiers and types of medical equipment -- catheters, for instance -- that aren’t properly cleaned. If health care workers don’t wash their hands well, they can also transfer the bacteria from an infected patient to you.

Your risk of pseudomonas infection also goes up if you:

Have a wound from surgery

Are being treated for burns

Use a breathing machine, catheter, or other medical device

Have diabetes or cystic fibrosis

Have a disorder that weakens your immune system, such as

HIV

Take medications that suppress your immune system, like those that treat cancer

Risk factors

Healthy people are usually at low risk of infection. People who already have a weakened immune system because of another illness or condition are at a higher risk of infection. This is especially true for people who are hospitalized for an extended period of time.

The bacteria can be spread in hospitals via the hands of healthcare workers, or by hospital equipment that is not properly cleaned.

Pseudomonas infections are considered opportunistic infections. This means that the organism only causes disease when a person’s immune system is already impaired.

Conditions that may increase the risk of infection include:

burn wounds

receiving chemotherapy for cancer

cystic fibrosis

HIV or AIDS

presence of a foreign body, like a mechanical ventilator or catheter

undergoing an invasive procedure, like a surgery

Infections can be severe in people whose immune systems are already compromised.

Very mild illnesses like skin rashes and ear infections have been reported in healthy individuals. The infection might occur after exposure to hot tubs and swimming pools that are inadequately chlorinated. This is sometimes called “hot tub rash.” Eye infections can occur in people who wear contacts if they use infected contact lens solution.

Pseudomonas can infect any part of the body including the liver, brain, bones, and sinuses. Infection of these sites and those not mentioned, however, is much less common than the infections listed above.

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Complications

The most serious infections include malignant external otitis, endophthalmitis, endocarditis, meningitis, pneumonia, and septicemia. The likelihood of recovery from pseudomonas infection is related to the severity of the patient's underlying disease process.

Prevention

Thoroughly washing hands and cleaning equipment in hospitals can help prevent infection. Outside a hospital, avoiding hot tubs and swimming pools that are poorly cared for can help prevent infections. You should remove swimming garments and shower with soap after getting out of the water. Drying your ears after swimming can also help prevent swimmer’s ear.


There are several things you can do to prevent infection if you are recovering from a procedure or receiving a treatment in a hospital:


Tell your nurse if any of your dressings become loose or look wet.

Tell your nurse if you think any tubes of IV lines have come loose.

Make sure you fully understand the treatment or procedure your doctor has requested for you.