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Chest. 2011 Apr;139(4):909-919. doi: 10.1378/chest.10-0166.

Pneumonia due to Pseudomonas aeruginosa: part I: epidemiology, clinical diagnosis, and source.

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Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, St. Marianna University, Kanagawa, Japan.
Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.
Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Electronic address:
Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, NY.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an uncommon cause of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), but a common cause of hospital-acquired pneumonia. Controversies exist for diagnostic methods and antibiotic therapy. We review the epidemiology of CAP, including that in patients with HIV and also in hospital-acquired pneumonia, including ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) and bronchoscope-associated pneumonia. We performed a literature review of clinical studies involving P aeruginosa pneumonia with an emphasis on treatment and prevention. Pneumonia due to P aeruginosa occurs in several distinct syndromes: (1) CAP, usually in patients with chronic lung disease; (2) hospital-acquired pneumonia, usually occurring in the ICU; and (3) bacteremic P aeruginosa pneumonia, usually in the neutropenic host. Radiologic manifestations are nonspecific. Colonization with P aeruginosa in COPD and in hospitalized patients is a well established phenomenon such that treatment based on respiratory tract cultures may lead to overtreatment. We present circumstantial evidence that the incidence of P aeruginosa has been overestimated for hospital-acquired pneumonia and reflex administration of empirical antipseudomonal antibiotic therapy may be unnecessary. A diagnostic approach with BAL and protected specimen brush using quantitative cultures for patients with VAP led to a decrease in broad-spectrum antibiotic use and improved outcome. Endotracheal aspirate cultures with quantitative counts are commonly used, but validation is lacking. An empirical approach using the Clinical Pulmonary Infection Score is a pragmatic approach that minimizes antibiotic resistance and leads to decreased mortality in patients in the ICU. The source of the P aeruginosa may be endogenous (from respiratory or GI tract colonization) or exogenous from tap water in hospital-acquired pneumonia. The latter source is amenable to preventive measures.

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