Pseudomonas Aeruginosa (P.A.) is a bacteria living in normal atmospheres and oxygen depleted waters. It can cause disease in humans and animals. These bacteria can live in many different environments: soap, eye drops, sinks, and medical equipment. It is recognized as a cause of “opportunistic infections” which are those infections not normally occurring in healthy individuals. Thus, it is most problematic when found in hospitals where it is particularly threatening to patients with immune system deficiencies, burns, indwelling catheters and indwelling respirators. It is a prime example of a nosocomial infection (i.e., a hospital acquired infection).
Cystic Fibrosis patients tend to have chronic respiratory tract infections because of impairment to the cilia which results in the accumulation of inhaled particles, including bacteria, in the human airway. The cilia are tiny hairs located in parts of the airway, which filter and push out of the body, dust and bacteria. Because of this impairment, P.A. opportunistically infects these individuals.
P.A. infection is confirmed by use of gram staining at a bacteriological laboratory. Treatment includes antibiotic therapy and bacteriophage therapy. However, not all antibiotics are effective against P.A. and so, a culture and sensitivity test must be done in order to determine effectiveness of a given antibiotic.
Pseudomonas Aeruginosa attacks up to two-thirds of all critical care patients and has a 40 to 60% mortality rate. As a result, measures to prevent initial exposure to this bacterium are essential. These include sterilization, isolation, hand washing and gloving as well as surface cleaning. An interesting method of prevention which has been determined effective is the use of antimicrobial surfaces. In a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, 355 copper alloys, including many brasses, which undergo regular cleaning, killed approximately 99.9% of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. The use of copper and brass in treatment of disease dates back to the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. “Everything old is new again.”