This study was performed in order to compare Burkholderia cepacia complex strains from cystic fibrosis (CF) and non-CF patients at the genomovar, genetic and epidemiological levels. A total of 92 B. cepacia respiratory tract isolates were obtained from patients attending the following CF centres: Catania and Palermo, Sicily; Gualdo Tadino, Central Italy, and Milan, Northern Italy. A total of 23 B. cepacia isolates were obtained from blood, surgical wound, and intravenous catheter sources of patients without CF, hospitalized in Catania and Varese, Northern Italy. Genomovar status identification, clonality and genetic relatedness determination, antibiotic susceptibility pattern determination and electron microscopy were performed. Transmission of infection was shown in both CF and non-CF patients by identifying clonality of responsible strains. In total 13 clones were involved in cross-transmission episodes. No outbreak was described involving both CF and non-CF patients. The present study indicates the existence of a distinct cluster of strains responsible for epidemics in CF and non-CF patients, based on their genetic relatedness, distinct from strains associated with no or negligible transmissibility. This result suggests that transmissibility is not only associated with a specific genomovar in CF patients, but also with a group of genetically related lineages in CF and non-CF patients. A key role is shown for both segregation measures and careful surveillance of infection, based on selective culture, molecular identification and epidemiological characterization of individual isolates.
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