Skip to main content

Burkholderia cepacia – outbreak in obstetric patients due to intrinsic contamination of non-sterile ultrasound gel

Introduction / objectives

Ultrasound gel is a potential source of infection. Non-sterile ultra-sound gels can be contaminated due to manufacturing procedures and also during usage of opened bottles. We report a cluster of eight clinical cases of vaginal colonization (one clinically proven colpitis) with Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia) due to intrinsically contaminated ultrasound gel in obstetric patients in an Austrian hospital.


When the cluster was realised a microbiological investigation of the environment was initiated (e.g. surfaces, equipment, ultrasound gels of different manufacturers). Isolates of three different patients and four isolates of ultrasound gel bottles (two opened and two sealed) were investigated by Puls-Field-Gel-Electrophoresis (PFGE) to clarify clonality and source.


Environmental specimens revealed no growth of B. cepacia. The four bottles from the incriminated manufacturer (two opened, two sealed bottles, all belonging to the same batch) were highly contaminated with B. cepacia (up to 40.000 CFU/ml). These isolates and the three patients' isolates showed the same genotype pattern by PFGE.


We, therefore, concluded that the whole batch of these non-sterile gels was affected by monoclonal intrinsic contamination with B. cepacia due to insufficiently controlled manufacturing procedures. There is a need for discussion about microbiological contamination levels tolerated in such non-sterile ultrasound gels, especially when used on susceptible sites such as mucous membranes.

Disclosure of interest

None declared.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hell, M., Abel, C., Albrecht, A. et al. Burkholderia cepacia – outbreak in obstetric patients due to intrinsic contamination of non-sterile ultrasound gel. BMC Proc 5 (Suppl 6), O75 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Public Health
  • Clinical Case
  • Mucous Membrane
  • Contamination Level
  • Burkholderia Cepacia