Infections caused by pseudomonas
Pseudomonas can cause a variety of infections, including:
- pneumonia (chest infections)
- urinary tract infections
- wound infections
- septicaemia (blood infection)
- infection of the gastro-intestinal system
Pseudomonas may also be found on the skin of some people and not necessarily cause infection. This is known as colonisation.
For these people, a risk assessment is undertaken. Treatment may be given in some cases if the person is at risk of developing an infection.
People vulnerable to pseudomonas infection
Pseudomonas rarely causes infection in people who are in good health. It is more likely to infect patients who are already very sick.
It can cause a range of infections, particularly among immunocompromised people (weakened immune symptom). This includes:
- people who have HIV
- people with cancer
- people with severe burns
- people with diabetes
- people with cystic fibrosis
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes changes promoted by hormones, and changes to the immune system. These changes occur to promote a healthy pregnancy, and help protect the developing baby.
As a result of these changes, pregnant women can be more likely to experience some infections, such as urine infections.
As a result, women who are pregnant may have an increased risk of getting a pseudomonas infection.
When to seek medical advice
In general, if you, or your child, have a weakened immune system and develop any signs of infection, such as a temperature, or symptoms of any of the infections listed above, you should seek medical advice urgently.
It may not necessarily be pseudomonas infection, but should be investigated and treated without delay.
If you have a weakened immune system, have recently been treated in a healthcare setting, and develop an infection, your GP will want to find out what is causing it - to see for example, if pseudomonas is present.
Causes of pseudomonas infection
Pseudomonas infection is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in a patient that is at risk (see above).
It is a tough bacterial strain, and is able to survive in harsh environments. This makes it difficult to get rid of completely.
It rarely causes illness outside a hospital or healthcare setting.
Infection control departments in hospitals are constantly taking measures to prevent spread and outbreaks.
Screening for pseudomonas
In Northern Ireland, steps are taken to control and minimise the spread of pseudomonas by screening for presence of the bacterium on the parts of the body where it can be found.
Screening is usually done in hospital by taking swabs from different areas of the body. The areas swabbed may involve:
- the nose/throat secretions
- groin/ perineum
- sometimes the navel (belly button)
Treatment of pseudomonas
If screening test results (see screening section above) show you have a pseudomonas infection, you will be contacted, and your treatment will be discussed with you.
Infections caused by pseudomonas are usually treated using an appropriate antibiotic in hospital.
Pseudomonas colonisation (when it is found only on the skin) may not necessarily require treatment.
Hospital staff take special precautions with patients who have pseudomonas in order to stop it spreading.
How to stop germs spreading
You can reduce your risk of picking up or spreading germs by practising good hygiene, both at home and in healthcare settings.
The following can help:
- if you have an illness, stay at home until at least 48 hours after your symptoms have cleared up
- wash your hands regularly with soap and water, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating – use liquid rather than bar soap and don't use flannels or nail brushes
- clean contaminated surfaces – such as the toilet, flush handle, light switches and door handles – with a bleach-based cleaner after each use
- don't share towels and flannels
- wash contaminated clothes and sheets separately from other washing at the highest possible temperature
- when visiting someone in hospital, follow visiting guidelines, avoid taking any children under the age of 12, and wash your hands with liquid soap and water when entering and leaving ward areas – avoid visiting hospital if you're feeling unwell or have recently had diarrhoea