Twenty-Five-Year Outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infecting Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis: Identification of the Prairie Epidemic Strain
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Transmissible strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been described for cystic fibrosis (CF) and may be associated with a worse prognosis. Using a comprehensive strain biobank spanning 3 decades, we sought to determine the prevalence and stability of chronic P. aeruginosa infection in an adult population. P. aeruginosa isolates from sputum samples collected at initial enrollment in our adult clinic and at the most recent clinic visit were examined by a combination of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus sequence typing and compared against a collection of established transmissible and local non-CF bronchiectasis (nCFB) isolates. A total of 372 isolates from 107 patients, spanning 674 patient-years, including 66 patients with matched isolates from initial and final encounters, were screened. A novel clone with increased antibacterial resistance, termed the prairie epidemic strain (PES), was found in 29% (31/107 patients) of chronically infected patients referred from multiple prairie-based CF centers. This isolate was not found in those diagnosed with CF as adults or in a control population with nCFB. While 90% (60/66 patients) of patients had stable infection over a mean of 10.8 years, five patients experienced strain displacement of unique isolates, with PES occurring within 2 years of transitioning to adult care. PES has been present in our cohort since at least 1987, is unique to CF, generally establishes chronic infection during childhood, and has been found in patients at the time of transition of patients from multiple prairie-based CF clinics, suggesting broad endemicity. Studies are under way to evaluate the clinical implications of PES infection.
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