Pseudomonas is a bacteria in the environment that can spread to people causing infections, including pneumonia.
It is most harmful to people with existing health conditions, which is why it is more likely to infect hospital patients who are already sick.
What is Pseudomonas?
Pseudomonas refers collectively to a group of bacteria, but it also applies more specifically to one species, pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is the most common form of pseudomonas.
It exists in the environment, in water, soil and on plants. Like legionella, it also grows in biofilm in man-made water systems, such as small-bore pipework.
When it infects humans, it can cause a range of infections, including lung infections.
Infection can occur when people are exposed to contaminated water or soil, but pseudomonas also spreads through contact – it can pass from person to person, unlike legionella.
For this reason, the most serious pseudomonas infections tend to take place in hospitals and healthcare settings.
The spread of the infection can be down to poor hygiene practices, or people coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, equipment and medical instruments.
Pseudomonas symptoms will vary depending on the type of infection. The bacteria can cause the following:
- Pneumonia and lung conditions
- Urinary tract infections
- Gastro-intestinal system infections
- Wound infections.
It can also cause milder conditions such as skin rashes, ear and eye infections.
How Do You Test for Pseudomonas?
To diagnose pseudomonas, a doctor first performs a physical examination and asks the patient about their symptoms.
Testing for pseudomonas involves sending a blood or bodily fluid sample to a lab for analysis.
An alternative is a bronchoscopy, where a narrow tube is inserted into the patient’s lungs, either through the nose or mouth, under sedation.
Symptoms of pseudomonas will vary according to the type of infection:
- Coughing, congestion and pneumonia symptoms for lung infections
- Stiffness, joint pain, fever, chills, fatigue for infections of the blood
- Pain, itching and liquid discharge in ear infections
- Rashes and pus-filled pimples in skin infections
- Pain and redness in the eyes
- Increased urge to urinate, painful urination and pelvic discomfort in urinary infections
- Inflammation and fluid leakage of infected wounds
- Pus discharge and sweet, fruity smell in soft tissue infections.
How Do You Treat Pseudomonas?
Treatment for pseudomonas involves a course of antibiotics. Normally, this will clear the infection. However, pseudomonas aeruginosa has become more resistant to many of these antibiotics
Antibiotics that remain effective against pseudomonas are fluoroquinolones and ciprofloxacin in particular.
In situations where one course of antibiotics does not get rid of the infection, the patient may need to undergo a further course.
Can You Prevent Pseudomonas?
The best way to prevent pseudomonas infections is to follow clear procedures around personal hygiene and maintaining clean surfaces.
These procedures include:
- Frequent and diligent hand washing
- Keeping wounds in hospital clean
- Avoiding sharing personal items such as towels
- Avoiding unclean spa pools and hot tubs
- Only using antibiotics where necessary
- Keeping surfaces clean.
Using a disinfectant on hands and surfaces is an effective way of preventing pseudomonas.