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Rapid Eradication of a Cluster of Serratia marcescens in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Use of Epidemiologic Chromosome Profiling by Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis

  • Kwan Kew Lai (a1) (a2), Stephen P. Baker (a1) (a2) and Sally A. Fontecchio (a1)



To investigate a cluster of patients infected and colonized with Serratia marcescens in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


In June 2001, two neonates in the NICU had clinical infections with S. marcescens and one died. Infection control surveillance data for the NICU revealed that S. marcescens was rarely isolated from clinical specimens. Surveillance and environmental cultures were performed and isolates were typed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Staff and neonates were cohorted and a waterless, alcohol-based handwashing agent was introduced. A case-control study was performed.


From June 2 through August 20, 2001, 11 neonates with S. marcescens infection and colonization were identified. The incidence of S. marcescens infections increased from 0.19 per 1,000 patient-days in 2000 to 0.52 per 1,000 patient-days in 2001 (P < .0001). In the first 3 weeks of the investigation, there were 2 sets of patients and sinks with indistinguishable strains; however, in subsequent weeks, all isolates were of unique strains, signifying no further transmission of the two initial predominant strains. Neonates with S. marcescens were more likely to have a lower gestational age and birth weight. There was no association between cases and healthcare workers (HCWs).


A cluster of S. marcescens was quickly terminated after the introduction of preventive measures including cohorting of infected and colonized neonates and HCWs, contact precautions, surveillance cultures, and a waterless, alcohol-based hand antiseptic. Chromosomal typing determined that strains with an indistinguishable pattern were no longer present in the unit after control measures were implemented.


Corresponding author

UMass Memorial Medical Center, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655


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Rapid Eradication of a Cluster of Serratia marcescens in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Use of Epidemiologic Chromosome Profiling by Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis

  • Kwan Kew Lai (a1) (a2), Stephen P. Baker (a1) (a2) and Sally A. Fontecchio (a1)


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