Researchers analyzed 168 isolates from 31 patients with pulmonary M. abscessus infection at a U.K cystic fibrosis center. Within clusters ofM. abscessus subspecies massiliense, isolates from different patients were often more closely related to each other than were isolates from within a single individual, suggesting transmission of the bacteria between patients. In addition, some isolates were resistant to macrolides and aminoglycosides in patients previously unexposed to those antibiotics, supporting the notion of cross-infection. The authors say transmission is likely occurring indirectly, such as through fomite contamination or lung function testing.
The authors conclude that their findings raise “several important questions about current infection control measures used in treatment centers, the potential for cross-infection in other patient groups and with other … species, and whether mandatory notification of infections with M. abscessus complex and routine whole genome sequencing might be required to identify and control the spread.”