Nosocomial colonization due to imipenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa epidemiologically linked to breast milk feeding in a neonatal intensive care unit


Correspondence to Dr Caterina MAMMINA, MD. Phn +39-091-655-3623. Fax +39-091-655-3641. E-mail


Aim: We describe a one-year investigation of colonization by imipenem-resistant, metallo-β-lactamase (MBL) producing Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the University Hospital of Palermo, Italy. Methods: A prospective epidemiological investigation was conducted in the period 2003 January to 2004 January. Rectal swabs were collected twice a week from all neonates throughout their NICU stay. MBL production by imipenem-resistant strains of P aeruginosa was detected by phenotypic and molecular methods. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was carried out on all isolates of P aeruginosa. The association between risk factors and colonization by imipenem-resistant, imipenem-susceptible P aeruginosa isolates and other multidrug-resistant Gram negative (MDRGN) organisms was analyzed for variables present at admission and during the NICU stay. Data analysis was carried out by the Cox proportional hazards regression model. Results: Twenty-two of 210 neonates were colonized with imipenem-resistant, MBL-producing P aeruginosa isolates and 14 by imipenem-susceptible P aeruginosa isolates. A single pulsotype, named A, was shared by all imipenem-resistant isolates. Colonization by P aeruginosa of pulsotype A was positively correlated with breast milk feeding and administration of ampicillin-sulbactam, and inversely correlated with exclusive feeding by formula. In the Cox proportional hazards regression model, birthweight of more than 2500 g and breast milk feeding were independently associated with an increased risk of colonization by MBL-producing P aeruginosa.Conclusion: The results strongly support an association between colonization by a well-defined imipenem-resistant, MBL producing P aeruginosa strain and breast milk feeding. Such a study may highlight the need for implementation of strategies to prevent expressed breast milk from becoming a vehicle of health care-associated infections.