Stenotrophomonas Maltophilia in Hospitals & Healthcare Environments
Is the emergence of the bacterium stenotrophomonas maltophilia, a potentially harmful pathogen, beginning to cause concern in hospitals and other healthcare environments?
Find out what it is, why it’s causing concern, problem areas and more.
What is stenotrophomonas maltophilia?
Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is a bacillus that was originally known by the name Pseudomonas maltophilia. It was also referred to as Xanthomonas maltophilia.
The bacterium is also one of a collection of gram-negative bacteria which are so-called because they do not hold onto the stain used to determine what type of bacteria they are. Gram staining involves using a crystal violet dye, and if a bacterium is gram negative, as in this case, it will not retain that dye when tested.
This stenotrophomonas bacterium commonly occurs in water-based environments. This may include various bodies of water, and soil-based environments. However, it may also be found in medical devices and situations where proper cleaning and disinfection processes have not been followed, or have not been robust enough.
Are humans at risk of contamination by stenotrophomonas maltophilia?
This is not the most commonly-occurring bacteria in settings that could lead to human contamination, but it can happen if the conditions make it possible. For instance, those who are in hospital are already likely to have depressed immune systems. They may also be using medical equipment, and if that equipment is contaminated with the bacteria, it can potentially lead to infection and illness.
A waterborne pathogen
Any water source contaminated with stenotrophomonas maltophilia can potentially lead to illness, as can contaminated medical equipment. Hospital ICU patients are at risk, since they are already very ill and likely to be using respiratory equipment. This equipment can become contaminated with the harmful bacteria if proper cleanliness and disinfection methods are not used.
Are the bacteria a threat to healthy people?
People with good immune systems that can withstand infection may not be affected if this bacterium enters their systems. However, it does depend on how the bacteria enters the body. Infection is far more likely to occur if contamination happens via an open wound, for example. Otherwise-healthy people who are using medical items such as a catheter might also be at risk of infection.
Meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections
While conditions such as meningitis and pneumonia might potentially result from being infected by the bacterium, other conditions can also occur. For example, a urinary tract infection can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of them is due to infection by stenotrophomonas maltophilia.
Treatment of stenotrophomonas maltophilia
To treat an infection caused by this bacterial strain, an antimicrobial treatment is usually given. The faster this is done, the better. If the patient is very ill, other therapies might also be prescribed.
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