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A pseudomonas infection is caused by a very common type of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa (say "soo-duh-MOH-nuss ay-roo-jee-NOH-suh").
Healthy people often carry these bacteria around without knowing it and without having any problems. Sometimes these germs cause minor problems like swimmer's ear and hot tub rash. But for people who are weak or ill, these germs can cause very serious—even deadly—infections in any part of the body.
The infections are hard to treat because the bacteria can resist many types of antibiotics, the medicines normally used to kill bacteria.
People in the hospital may get this infection. In hospitals, the bacteria can spread through medical equipment, cleaning solutions, and other equipment. They can even spread through food. When they spread to patients who are weak because of illness, surgery, or treatment, they can cause very serious infections. For example, pseudomonas is one of the main causes of pneumonia in patients who are on breathing machines.
Burn victims and people with puncture wounds may get dangerous pseudomonas infections of the blood, bone, or urinary tract. The bacteria can also get into the body through IV needles or catheters.
These bacteria like moist environments, such as hot tubs and swimming pools, where they can cause a skin rash or swimmer's ear.
People who wear contact lenses can get serious eye infections if the bacteria get into their contact lens solutions. This can happen if you aren't careful about keeping your contact lenses and equipment sterile.
Symptoms depend on where the infection is. If it's in a wound, there may be green-blue pus in or around the area. If you have swimmer's ear, your ear aches. If the infection causes pneumonia, you may get a cough. When the infections are elsewhere in the body, you may have a fever and feel tired. But all pseudomonas infections can make you very sick if they spread through the bloodstream (septicemia). A serious infection can cause symptoms of high fever, chills, confusion, and shock.
Antibiotics are the main treatment. Usually two different kinds are used. It can be hard to find the right antibiotic, because the bacteria are resistant to many of these medicines.
In some cases, surgery is used to remove infected tissue.
If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, be sure to take all the medicine even if you begin to feel better right away. If you don't take all the medicine, you may not kill all the bacteria. No matter what your treatment, it's important to call your doctor if your infection doesn't get better as expected.
As more antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop, hospitals are taking extra care to practice infection control. This includes frequent hand-washing and isolating patients who are infected.
Here are some other steps you can take to protect yourself:
If you have a pseudomonas infection, you can keep from spreading the bacteria.
Other Works Consulted
Brady MT (2009). Pseudomonas and related genera. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1651–1669. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Pier GB, Ramphal R (2010). Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2835–2860. Philadelphia: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.
March 10, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
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