Author(s): Miles Denton, Kevin G Kerr
The gram-negative bacterium Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is increasingly recognized as an important cause of nosocomial infection. Infection occurs principally, but not exclusively, in debilitated and immunosuppressed individuals. Management of S. maltophilia-associated infection is problematic because many strains of the bacterium manifest resistance to multiple antibiotics. These difficulties are compounded by methodological problems in in vitro susceptibility testing for which there are, as yet, no formal guidelines. Despite its acknowledged importance as a nosocomial pathogen, little is known of the epidemiology of S. maltophilia, and although it is considered an environmental bacterium, its sources and reservoirs are often not readily apparent. Molecular typing systems may contribute to our knowledge of the epidemiology of S. maltophilia infection, thus allowing the development of strategies to interrupt the transmission of the bacterium in the hospital setting. Even less is known of pathogenic mechanisms and putative virulence factors involved in the natural history of S. maltophilia infection and this, coupled with difficulties in distinguishing colonization from true infection, has fostered the view that the bacterium is essentially nonpathogenic. This article aims to review the current taxonomic status of S. maltophilia, and it discusses the laboratory identification of the bacterium. The epidemiology of the organism is considered with particular reference to nosocomial outbreaks, several of which have been investigated by molecular typing techniques. Risk factors for acquisition of the bacterium are also reviewed, and the ever-expanding spectrum of clinical syndromes associated with S. maltophilia is surveyed. Antimicrobial resistance mechanisms, pitfalls in in vitro susceptibility testing, and therapy of S. maltophilia infections are also discussed.