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Burkholderia Infections

If your child is healthy and has a normal immune system, you usually do not have to worry much about infections caused by Burkholderia cepacia bacteria. In the United States, these germs most often cause problems in circumstances such as the following:

  • B cepacia can produce severe lung infections in young people with cystic fibrosis, often late in the course of the disease.
  • It is associated with blood infections (bacteremia) in premature babies who are hospitalized for long periods of time.
  • It can cause infections in children with cancer and blood disorders such as chronic granulomatous disease.

Burkholderia organisms are found in soil and water. The germs can be spread through person-to-person contact. The initial symptoms may be a low-grade fever, progressing to much more serious conditions, including pneumonia and other lung disorders that can sometimes be deadly.

Other types of Burkholderia infections, such as B pseudomallei, are most common in rural parts of southeast Asia. These germs can cause pneumonia as well as skin and skeletal infections.

Depending on the specific type of the infection, cultures of sputum or blood samples may be collected and tested to identify the organism. A medicine called meropenem is the most active drug used to treat B cepacia. This antibacterial is typically given intravenously in the hospital and often prescribed in combination with other drugs.

Some strains of Burkholderia bacteria are spread from person to person or by contamination of disinfectants, including in hospital settings. Good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing, and infection control measures in hospitals can lower the risk of disease transmission. Centers treating children with cystic fibrosis often try to limit contact with other youngsters infected with B cepacia.

Last Updated
Immunizations & Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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