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Outcome of Burkholderia cepacia colonisation in an adult cystic fibrosis centre
  1. M J Ledson,
  2. M J Gallagher,
  3. M Jackson,
  4. C A Hart,
  5. M J Walshaw
  1. Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, The Cardiothoracic Centre, Liverpool L14 3PE, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr M J Walshaw, Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, The Cardiothoracic Centre, Liverpool L14 3PE, UK,


Background: Colonisation with Burkholderia cepacia is a poor prognostic indicator in subjects with cystic fibrosis (CF), but outcome prediction is impossible since patients are colonised by different strains with differing pathogenicity. The clinical course of a large cohort of CF patients colonised with UK epidemic (ET12) B cepacia was followed for 5 years and compared with that of the remaining patients in the clinic.

Methods: Pulmonary function, nutritional state, and lung pathogen colonisation were recorded for 5 years before December 1997 or death for all 107 patients who had attended the Liverpool adult CF clinic since 1993. For each patient a time line from study entry to date of death or 1997 was constructed. In 1993 potential risk factors including age and sex were subjected to Cox proportional hazards analysis using the end point of mortality as the outcome variable. The analysis was supplemented by time varying covariables that described the change in FEV1, BMI, and colonisation status across time, and the excess risk associated with B cepacia colonisation was calculated. Subsequently, in those patients who died between 1993 and 1997, predictive factors for death were compared within groups using complete 5 year data.

Results: Thirty seven patients had been colonised by epidemic B cepacia and these patients had four times the mortality of the remainder (p<0.01). In 1993 univariate predictors of mortality were age (alive 19.6 (0.64) v dead 23.8 (1.44); p<0.005) and baseline FEV1 (alive 68.6 (2.5)% predicted v dead 43.2 (4.8)%; p<0.001) with a trend for BMI (p=0.07). However, following time varying covariate Cox proportional hazards analysis, only lower FEV1 (hazards ratio 1.1, 95% confidence limits 1.06 to 1.14; p<0.001) and colonisation with B cepacia (hazards ratio 7.92, confidence limits 2.65 to 23.69; p<0.001) were identified as significant factors for death. Surviving B cepacia patients had similar initial lung function to the remaining surviving patients but had an accelerated loss of lung function over the study period (colonised –1.9% predicted per year v non-colonised –0.3% predicted per year; p<0.05). Deceased patients colonised with B cepacia had better spirometric results than the remaining deceased patients 5 years before death (p<0.05) but lost lung function at a greater rate than non-colonised patients (colonised –6.2% predicted per year v non-colonised –1.9% predicted per year; p<0.05).

Conclusions: This study confirms the excess mortality associated with epidemic B cepacia colonisation and shows that those with poor spirometric values are at the greatest risk.

  • cystic fibrosis
  • Burkholderia cepacia
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