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This article is part of the supplement: International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC 2011)

Open Access Oral presentation

Burkholderia cepacia – outbreak in obstetric patients due to intrinsic contamination of non-sterile ultrasound gel

M Hell1*, C Abel2, A Albrecht3, A Wojna4, G Chmelizek1, JM Kern5, M Maass5 and P Apfalter6

  • * Corresponding author: M Hell

Author Affiliations

1 Dep.of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, University Hospital Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

2 Infection control team, Hallein, Austria

3 Dep.of Gynecology , Teaching Hospital Hallein, Hallein, Austria

4 Private Laboratories Dr.Mustafa/Dr.Richter, Dep.of clinical microbiology, University Hospital Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

5 Institute of medical microbiology, hygiene and infectious diseases, University Hospital Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

6 Institute of Hygiene, Medical Microbiology and Tropical Medicine, Teaching Hospital Elisabethinen, Linz, Austria

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BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 6):O75  doi:10.1186/1753-6561-5-S6-O75

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:29 June 2011

© 2011 Hell et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Introduction / objectives

Ultrasound gel is a potential source of infection. Non-sterile ultra-sound gels can be contaminated due to manufacturing procedures and also during usage of opened bottles. We report a cluster of eight clinical cases of vaginal colonization (one clinically proven colpitis) with Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia) due to intrinsically contaminated ultrasound gel in obstetric patients in an Austrian hospital.


When the cluster was realised a microbiological investigation of the environment was initiated (e.g. surfaces, equipment, ultrasound gels of different manufacturers). Isolates of three different patients and four isolates of ultrasound gel bottles (two opened and two sealed) were investigated by Puls-Field-Gel-Electrophoresis (PFGE) to clarify clonality and source.


Environmental specimens revealed no growth of B. cepacia. The four bottles from the incriminated manufacturer (two opened, two sealed bottles, all belonging to the same batch) were highly contaminated with B. cepacia (up to 40.000 CFU/ml). These isolates and the three patients' isolates showed the same genotype pattern by PFGE.


We, therefore, concluded that the whole batch of these non-sterile gels was affected by monoclonal intrinsic contamination with B. cepacia due to insufficiently controlled manufacturing procedures. There is a need for discussion about microbiological contamination levels tolerated in such non-sterile ultrasound gels, especially when used on susceptible sites such as mucous membranes.

Disclosure of interest

None declared.