This is the scientific name for a bacteria that is unfortunately very well known in the Cystic fibrosis (CF) community.
It’s readily found in the environment (particularly soil and stagnant water) and doesn’t cause problems for the vast majority of people. Unfortunately the CF lungs provide a perfect environment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) to flourish. It’s almost like our lungs roll out a red carpet and provide champagne on arrival and complimentary chocolates for PA to entice it in. It’s pretty much guaranteed that a person with CF will culture this bug sooner or later and then they are mostly stuck with it for life. I don’t know a single adult with CF who doesn’t provide a home for this bug. The key is to stay PA free for as long as possible.
I first cultured PA at 5 years old but through a miracle my treatment successfully banished it for a while. It snuck back in when I was 9 and it’s been my constant companion for 20 years now. Basically, I’ve had a non-stop chest infection for two decades. Imagine that.
PA and I have a tumultuous relationship: we are constantly fighting. Sometimes I have the upper hand, sometimes it does. I’ve got a number of tools in my kit bag to try to beat it. My most helpful tool is antibiotics. Every second month, for a whole month, I inhale an antibiotic called Tobi twice a day. Tobi is especially formulated for inhalation by people with CF who have a PA infection. Although I’ve been having this antibiotic in one form or another for over two decades it’s still effective for me all these years later – thank goodness! I honestly don’t know if I’d be alive without Tobi or an equivalent.
Recently, my month off Tobi has been noticeably harder health-wise so I’m about to road test a second antibiotic called Colistin to fritter away the hours during my month off Tobi. Hours is not an exaggeration. It takes me about 10 min per inhalation. Add that up over a lifetime and it totals a lot of Modern Family episodes. Taking these antibiotics is absolutely necessary but it is a twice daily burden. And that burden never goes away. Ever.
There’s a tablet antibiotic we can take for extra help called Ciprofloxacin. When that fails to pep us up too it’s time for the big guns – intravenous antibiotics (IV’s). They have a great effect in me and I leave hospital feeling a million times better after a two week stint. I have IV’s about once a year at the moment.
PA has a nastier cousin called Burkholderia cepacia and these two bugs like to socialise with MRSA. Cepacia and MRSA are appreciably more dangerous bugs and they make life appreciably more difficult for people who culture either of these two. Dave and I are free from these two particular nasties and we sincerely hope it stays that way! If we must put up with bacterial tenants in our lungs, we’ll take the garden variety PA thanks.