Over time, CF patients lungs become filled with bacteria. People who do not have CF are not usually affected by these bacteria, but it can also be transferred between CF patients. Some bacteria, like Burkholderia cepacia, are most likely to be transferred.
Everyone inhales bacteria, but the lungs are usually protected from infection by a thin blanket of mucus that coats the lining of the lungs and traps bacteria, which are then transported out of the lungs. But the thick, sticky mucus in the lungs of CF patients allows the bacteria to survive in the airways. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria typically infect CF patients, and along with other bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.
Infection control is defined as ways to prevent acquiring and spreading bacteria. The most important prevention measure is frequent hand-washing with soap and water or alcohol-based cleaners. Proper cleaning of nebulizers and other equipment can also prevent the spread of bacteria.
The best way to minimize this spread of bacteria between CF patients is to prevent direct contact. Coughing allows droplets carrying bacteria to leave the lungs of patients with CF. Since these droplets do not travel more than 3 feet, maintaining a distance of 3 to 6 feet from other CF patients, along with frequent hand washing, should minimize the risk of spreading CF pathogens.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are the most concerning, including Burkholderia cepacia, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and multiple drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (MDR-Pa). Most CF centers have specific policies for managing patients that are colonized with these organisms.