Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Lung Infections
What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (also known as “pseudomonas”) is a bacterium that is found in the environment, such as in water, soil, and warm/damp areas. Although it is usually harmless to healthy individuals, it is known to cause lung and other infections in individuals with chronic lung conditions such as bronchiectasis.
What are the symptoms of a Pseudomonas lung infection?
Individuals with a pseudomonas lung infection can experience fever, chills, chronic cough (usually with mucus that is green or brown), and difficulty breathing.
Approximately 25% of people with bronchiectasis have chronic pseudomonas infections, and they experience more severe symptoms and frequent exacerbations.1,2
How is a Pseudomonas lung infection confirmed/diagnosed?
If your health care provider suspects a pseudomonas lung infection, a sample of your sputum or phlegm will be collected in a sterile container and sent to a laboratory to test for bacteria.
Most individuals with bronchiectasis can cough up sputum pretty easily, but some individuals may need to perform a special coughing method such as the huff cough method. More information on techniques for bringing up sputum/clearing the airways can be found here.
In some cases, a health care provider may recommend a bronchoscopy procedure to collect a sample directly from the airways. During a bronchoscopy, you will be sedated, and a narrow tube will be inserted through your nose or mouth to reach your lungs and obtain the sample.
Once the sample is tested in the laboratory, your health care provider will be able to confirm whether you have a pseudomonas lung infection.
How is a Pseudomonas lung infection treated?
A pseudomonas lung infection is difficult to treat because the bacteria is resistant to commonly used oral antibiotics; however, there are certain antibiotics that can be used alone (or in combination with each other) to treat a pseudomonas lung infection. Intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be necessary.
Major medical societies such as the American Thoracic Society and the British Thoracic Society have both published guidelines to help guide health care providers in treating pseudomonas lung infections.
Your health care provider will evaluate your medical history, existing conditions, and allergies to determine which antibiotic(s) will be best for you. In some cases, the treatment of a pseudomonas lung infection can be similar to a “trial and error” process, as the bacteria may not react to certain antibiotics, causing the need to switch to different antibiotics. It is important to take the full course of the antibiotics to increase the likelihood of effectively treating the infection. A full course of antibiotics typically lasts 10-14 days.
How can I avoid a Pseudomonas lung infection?
Since pseudomonas is commonly found in the environment, limiting exposure is not realistic, but this doesn’t mean you need to live in constant fear of suffering from a pseudomonas lung infection. The best approach to avoiding any type of lung infection is to practice regular hygiene measures (e.g. regularly washing your hands with antibacterial soap) as well as airway clearance techniques. Airway clearance techniques are those utilized to help clear the mucus from the airways. When mucus collects in the airways, it creates an environment for bacteria to thrive and cause infections. It is also important not to smoke, as smokers with bronchiectasis have more severe infections.3,4
1Araújo D, Shteinberg M, Aliberti S, et al. The independent contribution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection to long-term clinical outcomes in bronchiectasis. Eur Resp J. 2018; 51(2): 1701953. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.01953-2017
2Richardson H, Dicker AJ, Barclay H, et al. The microbiome in bronchiectasis. Eur Respir Rev. 2019;28:190048. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1183/16000617.0048-2019
3Bronchiectasis. Breathe (Sheff). 2018;14(1):73-80. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1183%2F20734735.ELF141
4Ma Y, Liu D, Ji Y, et al. Clinical features related to hospital expenses for non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis in China. JIMR. 2020;48:6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0300060520932116