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1.  Early detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa – comparison of conventional versus molecular (PCR) detection directly from adult patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) 
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) is the most important bacterial pathogen in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Currently, routine bacteriological culture on selective/non- selective culture media is the cornerstone of microbiological detection. The aim of this study was to compare isolation rates of PA by conventional culture and molecular (PCR) detection directly from sputum.
Adult patients (n = 57) attending the regional adult CF centre in Northern Ireland, provided fresh sputum following airways clearance exercise. Following processing of the specimen with sputasol (1:1 vol), the specimen was examined for the presence of PA by plating onto a combination of culture media (Pseudomonas isolation agar, Blood agar & McConkey agar). In addition, from the same specimen, genomic bacterial DNA was extracted (1 ml) and was amplified employing two sequence-specific targets, namely (i) the outer membrane protein (oprL) gene locus and (ii) the exotoxin A (ETA) gene locus.
By sputum culture, there were 30 patients positive for PA, whereas by molecular techniques, there were 35 positive patients. In 39 patients (22 PA +ve & 17 PA -ve), there was complete agreement between molecular and conventional detection and with both PCR gene loci. The oprL locus was more sensitive than the ETA locus, as the former was positive in 10 more patients and there were no patients where the ETA was positive and the oprL target negative. Where a PCR +ve/culture -ve result was recorded (10 patients), we followed these patients and recorded that 5 of these patients converted to being culture-positive at times ranging from 4–17 months later, with a mean lag time of 4.5 months.
This study indicates that molecular detection of PA in sputum employing the oprL gene target, is a useful technique in the early detection of PA, gaining on average 4.5 months over conventional culture. It now remains to be established whether aggressive antibiotic intervention at this earlier stage, based on PCR detection, has any significant benefits on clinical outcome.
PMCID: PMC529303  PMID: 15496232
2.  Infection control and the significance of sputum and other respiratory secretions from adult patients with cystic fibrosis 
There is limited data available on the environmental and public health impact of the microbiological hazards associated with sputa from patients with cystic fibrosis [CF]. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia cenocepacia (formerly Burkholderia cepacia genomovar III), Staphylococcus aureus and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia are bacterial pathogens which are commonly found in the sputum of CF patients. A study was performed to ascertain the amount of sputum produced relating to microbial loading, as well as the diversity of bacteria present in a population of adult patients, with particular attention to pathogenic organisms.
Sputum from adult [>18 years old] CF patients [n = 20], chosen randomly from a population of 138 CF patients, was collected over a 24 h period on admission to the in-patient CF unit and enumerated quantitatively, as well as the sputa from 138 adult CF patients was examined qualitatively for the presence of infecting microflora. In addition, all different phenotypes from the sputum of each patient were identified phenotypically employing a combination of conventional identification methods [e.g. oxidase], as well as the API Identification schemes [API 20 NE, API 20 E].
This study demonstrated that patients with cystic fibrosis generate large numbers of bacteria in their sputum, approximating to 109 organisms per patient per day. Although these organisms are introduced to the environment from the respiratory tract mainly via sputum, relatively few represent true bacterial pathogens and therefore are not clinically important to the general public who are immunocompotent. The greatest risk of such environmental microbial loading is to other patients with CF and therefore CF patients should be made aware of the hazards of acquiring such organisms from the environment, as well as socializing with other CF patients with certain transmissible types, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cenocepacia.
Environmental health professionals should therefore be aware that CF patients are a greater risk to their peer grouping rather than to the general public or health care workers and that good personal hygiene practices with CF patients should be encouraged to minimize environmental contamination and potential acquistion.
PMCID: PMC421743  PMID: 15175107

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