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Sphingobacterium respiratory tract infection in patients with cystic fibrosis

Antonietta Lambiase1*, Fabio Rossano1, Mariassunta Del Pezzo1, Valeria Raia2, Angela Sepe2, Fabiola de Gregorio2 and Maria Rosaria Catania1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology and Pathology "Luigi Califano", Medicine School, University of Naples "Federico II", Pansini street, 80131, Naples, Italy

2 Department of Pediatrics, Regional Cystic Fibrosis Center, Medicine School, University of Naples "Federico II", Pansini street, 80131, Naples, Italy

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BMC Research Notes 2009, 2:262  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-262

Published: 23 December 2009



Bacteria that belong to the genus Sphingobacterium are Gram-negative, non-fermentative bacilli, ubiquitous in nature and rarely involved in human infections. The aims of this study were to evaluate the epidemiology of infection by Sphingobacterium in a cohort of patients affected by Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the antibiotic susceptibility and the DNA fingerprinting of the isolated strains and to analyze some clinical outcomes of the infected patients.


Between January 2006 and June 2008, patients (n = 332) attending the Regional CF Unit in Naples, Italy, were enrolled.

Sputum samples were processed for microscopic, cultural, phenotypic identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing. DNA fingerprinting was performed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). A total of 21 strains of Sphingobacterium were isolated from 7 patients (13 of S. spiritovorum, 8 of S. multivorum). S. multivorum isolates were more resistant than those of S. spiritovorum. PFGE profiles were in general heterogeneous, which suggested independent circulation.


This is the first Italian report about respiratory tract infections by Sphingobacterium in CF patients. In our cohort, these infections were not associated with a deterioration of pulmonary function during the follow-up period. Although the exact role of this microorganism in CF lung disease is unknown and the number of infected patients was small, this study could represent an important starting-point for understanding the epidemiology and the possible pathogenic role of Sphingobacterium in CF patients.