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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Microbiology of airway disease in a cohort of patients with Cystic Fibrosis

Antonietta Lambiase1*, Valeria Raia2, Mariassunta Del Pezzo1, Angela Sepe2, Vincenzo Carnovale2 and Fabio Rossano1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology and Pathology Cellular and Molecular "Luigi Califano"

2 Regional Cystic Fibrosis Center, University of Naples "Federico II", Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-4

Published: 11 January 2006



Recent reports document an increasing incidence of new Gram-negative pathogens such as Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Alcaligenes xylosoxidans isolated from patients with Cystic Fibrosis, along with an increase in common Gram-negative pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia complex. Furthermore, the increase in multidrug-resistance of such organisms makes the therapeutic management of these patients more problematic. Therefore, careful isolation and identification, and accurate studies of susceptibility to antibiotics are critical for predicting the spread of strains, improving therapeutic measures and facilitating our understanding of the epidemiology of emerging pathogens. The first aim of this study was to determine the incidence and the prevalence of colonization by Gram-negative organisms isolated from respiratory samples of Cystic Fibrosis patients in the Regional Referral Cystic Fibrosis Centre of Naples; the second was to evaluate the spectrum of multidrug-resistance of these organisms.


Patients (n = 300) attending the Regional Cystic Fibrosis Unit were enrolled in this study over 3 years. Sputum was processed for microscopic tests and culture. An automated system, Phoenix (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, Maryland, USA), was used for phenotypic identification of all strains; the API 20 NE identification system (bioMérieux, Marcy l'Etoile, France) was used when the identification with the Phoenix system was inaccurate. A PCR-RFLP method was used to characterize the organisms in the Burkholderia cepacia complex. A chemosusceptibility test on microbroth dilutions (Phoenix) was used. Primary outcomes such as FEV1 were correlate with different pathogens.


During the period of study, 40% of patients was infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, 7% by Burkholderia cepacia complex, 11% by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and 7% by Alcaligenes xylosoxidans. Of the strains isolated, 460 were multidrug-resistant. Multiresistant were Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia complex.


The results confirm previously reported data; in particular, they show an increase the isolation of non-fermentative Gram-negative bacteria in Cystic Fibrosis patients. They also demonstrate increased resistance to antibiotics. Beta-lactams are rarely effective, with exception of ceftazidime, which is the most efficacious agent against multiresistant strains. Aminoglycosides and quinolones are poorly efficacious.