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J Hosp Infect. 2005 Dec;61(4):312-20. Epub 2005 Sep 29.

A simultaneous outbreak of Serratia marcescens and Klebsiella pneumoniae in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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Unit of Microbiology and Virology, Policlinico of Modena, Italy.


We describe two concurrent outbreaks of Serratia marcescens and Klebsiella pneumoniae in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Over a 16-month period, a total of 27 infants were either colonized (N=14) or infected (N=13). There were 15 cases of S. marcescens and 11 cases of K. pneumoniae. Both micro-organisms were involved in one fatal case. Seven preterm babies developed septicaemia, two had bacteraemia, three had respiratory infections and one had purulent conjunctivitis. The S. marcescens and K. pneumoniae isolates were investigated by three molecular methods: enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus polymerase chain reaction (PCR), arbitrary primed PCR with M13 primer, and random amplification of polymorphic DNA. Different patterns were found in the 16 S. marcescens epidemic isolates from 16 newborn infants. The major epidemic-involved genotype was linked to the first nine cases and this was subsequently replaced by different patterns. Eight different typing profiles were also determined for the 13 K. pneumoniae isolates from 12 newborn infants. Four K. pneumoniae bacteraemic strains proved to be identical. In conclusion, the typing results revealed that two different micro-organisms (S. marcescens and K. pneumoniae) were simultaneously involved in invasive nosocomial infections in preterm newborns. Two simultaneous clusters of cases were documented. Heterogeneous genotypes among both species were also demonstrated to be present in the NICU at the same time. A focal source for both micro-organisms was not identified but cross-transmission through handling was probably an important route in this outbreak. Strict adherence to handwashing policies, cohorting, isolation of colonized and infected patients, and rigorous environmental hygiene were crucial measures in the containment of the epidemic.

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