Burkholderia cepacia

B. cepacia is the name for a group or “complex” of bacteria that can be found in soil and water. B. cepacia bacteria are often resistant to common antibiotics.

Populations susceptible to B. cepacia infection

B. cepacia poses little medical risk to healthy people. However, people who have certain health problems like weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases, particularly cystic fibrosis (CF), may be more susceptible to infections with B. cepacia. B cepacia is a known cause of infections in hospitalized patients.

Symptoms of B. cepacia infection

The effects of B. cepacia on people vary widely, ranging from no symptoms at all, to serious respiratory infections, especially in patients with CF.

How B. cepacia infection is spread

Transmission of B. cepacia from contaminated medicines and devices has been reported.

In 2005, CDC was notified by several states of clusters of pneumonia and other infections caused by B. cepacia and associated with contaminated mouthwash. For more information see the CDC Health Advisory (HAN).

In 2004, CDC was notified of a voluntary recall of over-the-counter nasal spray due to contamination with B. cepacia complex.

For more information see the MMWR article and also the CDC Health Update (HAN) for a complete list of recalled lot numbers.

Also in 2004, B. cepacia was attributed to nosocomial infections among ICU patients and associated with exposure to sublingual probes. For more information see the MMWR article.

For a comprehensive list of medicines and devices that have been associated with B. cepacia contamination before 2003, see p. 43 of CDC’s Environmental Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities .

B. cepacia can also be spread to susceptible persons by:

  • person-to-person contact
  • contact with contaminated surfaces
  • exposure to B. cepacia in the environment.

Careful attention to infection control procedures like hand hygiene can help reduce the risk of transmission of this organism. For more information on hand hygiene and infection control practices see, Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings and Guideline for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals.

Treatment of B. cepacia infection

B. cepacia can be resistant to many common antibiotics. Decisions on the treatment of infections with B. cepacia should be made on a case-by-case basis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves.

Since it was founded in 1946 to help control malaria, CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities and environmental health threats.