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Water Health Educator

Promoting advocacy for access to clean water

Disease Focus: Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas – A Brief

By Nicole Kraatz

Pseudomonas is a variety of infections caused by a bacteria normally found in soil or water throughout the environment. The most common of these infections that affect humans is classified as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This was first discovered by Carle Gessard in 1882 during an experiment using ultra violet lighting. Pseudomonas may cause a variety of different infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, wound infections, septicemia and gastrointestinal infections. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is known to be an opportunistic pathogen, meaning it can lead to other serious infections that may eventually require hospitalizations.

Because pseudomonas strains can lead to a variety of different infections, the symptoms and area of infections depend on the illness caused by the specific strain. For example, if the pseudomonas strain causes pneumonia in a patient, symptoms may include a cough, fever or shortness of breath. If the particular infection causes severe illness, symptoms may include high fever, chills, confusion and shock. Many of those that contract an infection from a pseudomonas strain are those that are immunocompromised. It is also possible for people to contract a nosocomial infection from pseudomonas.

Pseudomonas infections can generally be treated with antibiotics. However, it can be difficult at times to find the right antibiotics as the bacteria strains are constantly evolving and becoming resistant to certain medicines. Pseudomonas can be prevented by regular hygiene practices such as hand washing, proper cleaning of hospital equipment as well as environmental cleanup. It is important to isolate patients currently infected with pseudomonas as to prevent future nosocomial infections.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Interactions

by Olivia Yang

Pseudomonas is a genus of bacteria commonly found in moist environments like lakes and rivers. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in particular, causes significant infections and demonstrates resistance to numerous antibiotics, making it difficult to eliminate. Those with compromised immune systems, especially patients with cancer, HIV, and cystic fibrosis, are especially susceptible to infection by this opportunistic pathogen.

P. aeruginosa is the most common pathogen in humans. The pathogen can cause infections in the urinary tract, bones and joints, respiratory system, skin, soft tissue, as well as other organs and body systems. Hot tubs and inadequately chlorinated pools are some of the places where one can be exposed to P. aeruginosa infection, more so if one carries wounds in hands or feet.  

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is also one of the most common bacteria to cause healthcare associated infections. In hospitals, P. aeruginosa can be found in disinfectants, sinks, antiseptic solutions, ventilators, catheters, food, taps, and mops. Transmission occurs via patient to patient interactions, in contact with contaminated equipment, and through contaminated food and water. 30-50% of P. aeruginosa infections in an ICU are associated with contaminated water. Because sinks and pipes are ideal sites for bacterial propagation, households and hospitals with poor water treatment systems are in grave danger.

Furthermore, if infected, hospital inpatients who are in the process of convalescing from surgeries could become severely ill and even die. In critical care units, particularly during surgery, the risk of infection increases because of incisions and the use of invasive devices. If the equipment or hands of hospital personnel are contaminated, patients with open wounds or serious burns are more susceptible to severe and potentially life-threatening infections. Hospitals can minimize the possibility of contamination by implementing detailed infection control and training their staffs to adhere to proper hygiene regimes.

In fighting the rising cases of Pseudomonas infections, compounded by the absence of a general use vaccine yet, the importance of preventative measures cannot be emphasized enough. Closing the lid before flushing the toilet, disinfecting bathrooms and doorknobs, thoroughly washing hands, and avoiding potentially contaminated spaces like swimming pools, public bathrooms, hot tubs, and puddles can all go a long way towards lowering the risk of infection.

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