BACKGROUND: Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection is seldom eradicated in patients with cystic fibrosis despite intensive antipseudomonal treatment. Upper airway sites of infection may contribute to perpetuation of lower airways infection. This study was designed to find out which extrapulmonary sites are infected and whether the strains at these sites are identical to those in the lungs. METHODS: Sputum and upper airway samples from 42 patients were cultured for P aeruginosa and stool samples from 20 patients were also tested. Nineteen isolates from sputum and extrapulmonary sites from four patients were genotyped with the pCM tox probe. RESULTS: P aeruginosa was isolated from the sputum of 36 patients, 34 of whom had infection in the upper airways. Six of the 20 patients tested were positive for P aeruginosa in the stool. The nasopharynx was colonised in 30 patients, the oropharynx in 29, the middle meatus in 13, the external nares in six, and the inferior turbinate in four. Three of four patients tested had the same strain of P aeruginosa (a different one in each individual) in the sputum and the upper airways, and in two of the three the stool isolate was a different strain. CONCLUSION: Most adults with cystic fibrosis and P aeruginosa pulmonary infection have upper airway reservoirs of the organism and strains from these sites are identical to those in the lungs.
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