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Intensive Care Med. 1993;19(3):161-5.

Exogenous or endogenous reservoirs of nosocomial Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus infections in a surgical intensive care unit.

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Department of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospital Freiburg, Germany.



A 4 month prospective study was performed to assess the incidence and routes of endogenous or exogenous colonization and nosocomial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in surgical critically ill patients.


A total of 4634 specimens were obtained. Patient's nasal, scalp, and rectal swabs as well as tracheal secretion (TS) were cultured every second day beginning on the day of admission. Nasal swabs and hand cultures of the personnel as well as cultures from gowns were also taken. All isolates of S. aureus were phage typed and 116 of these isolates were also plasmid typed. P. aeruginosa isolates were sero- and pyocin typed. Resistance patterns were determined in all isolates.


The study was carried out in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) of an teaching hospital.


During the study period each patient (a total of 153 patients) admitted to the SICU entered the study.


P. aeruginosa and S. aureus colonisation rate on admission were 5% and 36.5% respectively. Only 10 patients (6.5%) were colonized with P. aeruginosa during hospitalization, and only 7 patients (4.5%) acquired S. aureus in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU). The most common primary colonisation site of P. aeruginosa was the rectum, whereas S. aureus was predominantly found in nasal cultures. Horizontal transmission of S. aureus occurred in only 2 patients.


The study suggests that colonisation with P. aeruginosa and S. aureus occurs from endogenous rather than from exogenous sources and that the endogenous acquisition of both bacteria play a more important role in development of nosocomial infections than the exogenous route of transmission.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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