Burkholderia cepacia in Healthcare Settings

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General Information about B. cepacia

Burkholderia cepacia [burk-hōld–er–ee-uh si–pay–shee–uh] (also called B. cepacia) is the name for a group or “complex” of bacteria that can be found in soil and water. B. cepacia bacteria are often resistant to common antibiotics.

Populations susceptible to B. cepacia infection

B. cepacia poses little medical risk to healthy people. However, people who have certain health problems like weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases, particularly cystic fibrosisexternal icon, may be more susceptible to infections with B. cepacia. B cepacia is a known cause of infections in hospitalized patients.

Symptoms of B. cepacia infection

The effects of B. cepacia on people vary widely, ranging from no symptoms at all to serious respiratory infections, especially in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Electron Micrograph of Burkholderia cepacia

For more images of this bacterium, search the Public Health Image Library

Transmission of B. cepacia infection

Transmission of B. cepacia from contaminated medicines and devices has been reported.

In 2005, CDC was notified by several states of clusters of pneumonia and other infections caused by B. cepacia and associated with contaminated mouthwash.

In 2004, CDC was notified of a voluntary recall of over-the-counter nasal spray due to contamination with B. cepacia complex. For more information see the Notice to Readers: Manufacturer’s Recall of Nasal Spray Contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia Complex.

Also in 2004, B. cepacia was linked to nosocomial infections among intensive care unit patients and associated with exposure to sublingual probes. For more information see the Notice to Readers: Nosocomial Burkholderia cepacia Infections Associated with Exposure to Sublingual Probes — Texas, 2004.

B. cepacia can also be spread to susceptible persons by:

  • Person-to-person contact
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces
  • Exposure to B. cepacia in the environment.

Treatment of B. cepacia infection

B. cepacia can be resistant to many common antibiotics. Decisions on the treatment of infections with B. cepacia should be made on a case-by-case basis.