Pseudomonas infection

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at September 1, 2016
StartDiseasesPseudomonas infection

Pseudomonas infection is a type of bacterial infection that tends to be resistant to antibiotics. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the type of bacteria that causes this infection, was first discovered and identified by Carle Gessard, a French physician, in 1882.


Definition & Facts

Pseudomonas infection is an infection that is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pseudomonas bacteria is found widely in the environment but is commonly acquired during hospitalization. As many as 400 people die every year in America due to Pseudomonas infections acquired from hospitalization.

The bacteria can enter the body through several simple ways such as a hot tub, swimmer's ear (otitis externa), and drinking dirty water. It can affect the blood, lungs, skin, ear, and eye.

This type of bacteria attacks a person and often stays in the body without causing symptoms. For healthy people, it is difficult to know that it is already inside the body.

For people who already have a weakened immune system and are ill, the infection may become fatal. Pseudomonas infection is difficult to cure as it has high resistance to many types of antibiotics.

Symptoms & Complaints

It can be difficult to identify symptoms of the Pseudomonas infection in healthy people, and symptoms depend on which part of the body the infection has attacked.

For Pseudomonas infection of the blood (bacteremia), common symptoms are fever, chills, fatigue, muscle pain, and joint pain, low blood pressure (hypotension), or shock, which causes organ failure such as in the kidneys (acute kidney failure) and heart (heart failure).

For Pseudomonas infection in lungs (pneumonia), symptoms include fever, cough with or without sputum, and difficulty breathing. For Pseudomonas infection of the skin, there will be redness of the skin, abscess formation in the skin, and discharge from wounds.

For Pseudomonas infection of the ear that is associated with swimmer's ear, symptoms include ear swelling (otitis), ear pain, itchiness inside the ear, discharge from the ear, and hearing problems.

Pseudomonas infection in the eye has symptoms that include eye inflammation, pus, eye pain, eye redness, and impaired vision.


All Pseudomonas infections are caused by the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This pathogen lives in many types of environment. It is not only present in outdoor areas. It can also be found in hospitals, such as in hospital beds and bathrooms. IV needles and catheters used in hospital settings are also a source of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Contaminated food can also spread Pseudomonas aeruginosa in hospital settings. Pseudomonas infection is thus often a hospital-acquired infection.

The bacteria can also be found in moist environments such as toilets, hot tubs, swimming pools, flooded streets, and wetlands. Infections that arise from exposure to the bacteria in these environments can result in skin rashes and swimmer's ear. People who regularly wear contact lenses are also vulnerable.

People who suffer from burns with puncture wounds are more vulnerable to Pseudomonas infection, especially infection of the blood. From there, it can spread to the bones and to the urinary system, thereby causing severe and even life-threatening symptoms.

Diagnosis & Tests

Diagnosis of Pseudomonas is not different from that of other bacterial infections in that laboratory analysis to detect the bacteria is the primary means of confirming diagnosis. The diagnostic process typically begins with the health care professional asking the patient about his or her symptoms and asking him or her to provide a medical history and family history. The doctor will perform a physical examination to assess physical symptoms.

Blood tests are usually necessary. A sample of pus can also be included in the test. Stool tests and clinical urine tests can be done. After gathering such samples of blood, stool, urine, or pus, the samples are sent to the laboratory. Like other bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be detected through such laboratory tests.

More complicated infections, such as Pseudomonas infection of the lungs can be diagnosed through chest X-ray. Additional medical imaging studies like computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)s may be necessary to investigate internal organs that may have been affected by systemic infections. Because Pseudomonas infection can cause endocarditis and meningitis, these exams may be necessary to evaluate the extent of damage.

For Pseudomonas infections of the eye and ear, ENT doctors may use special equipment if necessary.

Treatment & Therapy

Usually, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. The problem is that Pseudomonas infections have higher resistance to antibiotics as compared to other infections. The organisms have already adapted itself to ordinary antibiotic treatments. The danger behind Pseudomonas infection is that it continues to develop resistance even against newer and stronger antibiotics.

Nevertheless, doctors recommend antibiotics such as ceftazidime, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, gentamicin, cefepime, aztreonam, carbapenems, ticarcillin, and ureidopenicillin.

If the treatment is through antibiotics, it is highly recommended to take them exactly how the doctor prescribed them - even if the condition improves.

In severe cases, surgical treatment is needed to remove the infected tissue such as Pseudomonas in skin. Treatment for Pseudomonas infections in lungs may also include cough medicines such as carbocisteine, dextromethorphan, or salbutamol along with the regular antibiotic medicines.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

There are many ways to prevent Pseudomonas infections which rely on proper hygiene in the hospital environment. Frequent hand washing is critical.

When suffering from cuts and wounds, it is recommended to immediately cover it with a bandage. Sharing personal items such as towels or razors must also be avoided. One should be vigilant about cleaning contact lenses to avoid Pseudomonas infections.

In taking antibiotics, doctor's advice must be followed exactly as incorrect dosage and administration may cause Pseudomonas bacteria to develop even higher resistance.