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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2005 Jun;26(6):567-74.

Dynamics of hemodialysis catheter colonization by coagulase-negative staphylococci.

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Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.



Catheter colonization is a necessary but poorly characterized step in the pathogenesis of catheter-related infections. Colonization dynamics of central venous hemodialysis catheters were studied with emphasis on coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) and their population genetics, antibiotic resistance, and biofilm formation. The homogeneity of CoNS colony morphotypes was evaluated.


Prospective, longitudinal study during 1,158 catheter-days with microbiological analysis of skin swabs, weekly catheter blood and brush samples, and catheter tips.


Hemodialysis unit of a university hospital.


Twenty-six patients with 24 non-tunneled and 5 tunneled catheters.


Nineteen (65.5%) of the catheters became colonized, 17 by CoNS. CoNS colonization of the inner lumen was observed in 17.2% of the catheters and was first detectable after 3 weeks. Colonization of the outer surface occurred in 44.8% of the catheters within a minimum of 2 weeks. PFGE of 53 CoNS revealed 10 clones and 20 unique isolates. Isolates from clones were more frequent in catheter blood and brush cultures than were unique isolates (41% vs 15%), were resistant to more antibiotics (median, 7 vs 2), and tended to more often carry the icaA gene (64.1% vs 40%). Four (23.5%) of the catheters showed colonization with a mixture of CoNS based on PFGE. The time from catheter insertion to such mixed CoNS colonization was longer than that for colonization with one CoNS PFGE pattern only (42 vs 25 days).


Colonization of hemodialysis catheters is dominated by multidrug-resistant, icaA-positive CoNS clones. Mixed CoNS colonization occurs, but is delayed, suggesting a process of sequential superinfection.

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