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Definition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa: The versatile "blue-green pus bacteria" that opportunistically infects people, especially those who are immunocompromised. Pseudomonas rarely causes infection in healthy individuals but it is a major cause of hospital acquired (nosocomial) infections. It tends to infect people with immunodeficiency or burns and those with indwelling catheters or on respirators. Infection with pseudomonas can lead to urinary tract infections, sepsis (blood stream infection), pneumonia, pharyngitis, and many other medical problems. Pseudomonas colonizes the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and contributes to the chronic progressive pulmonary disease and death rate in CF.

Pseudomonas normally resides in the soil, marshes, and coastal marine habitats. It can survive under conditions that few other organisms can tolerate, it produces a slime layer that resists phagocytosis (engulfment), and it is resistant to most antibiotics. Pseudomonas can multiply in an extraordinary assortment of environments including eyedrops, soaps, sinks, anesthesia and resuscitation equipment, fuels, humidifiers and even stored distilled water. It has also been reported in kidney dialysis machines. The characteristic color of the pus is due to a bluish pigment (pyocyanin) and a greenish pigment produced by pseudomonas.

The complete sequence of the genome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been determined. Published in Nature (Stover et al. 406:959-964, 2000), it was the largest bacterial genome sequenced to that time. The 6.3-Mbp genome contains 5570 predicted genes on one chromosome.

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