The emergence of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a226 (Published 12 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1322
  1. Alan P Johnson, clinical scientist,
  2. Georgia J Duckworth, director
  1. 1Department of Healthcare-Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, London NW9 5EQ
  1. alan.johnson{at}hpa.org.uk

Superbug or opportunist?

The recent publication of the genome sequence of the bacterium Stenotrophomonas maltophilia was accompanied by a press statement that described this organism as a “newly emerging superbug.”1 2 This was followed by a flurry of headlines in the United Kingdom informing the public of problems related to S maltophilia, such as the apparent “rising death toll fear in hospitals” (Daily Mirror) and the concern of doctors that “no antibiotics can stop it” (the Sun). Suddenly, the public had a new superbug (or even “mega-bug”, as it was referred to in the Sun) to worry about.

So, what must a bacterium do to earn “superbug” status? One prerequisite is resistance to multiple antibiotics and the associated difficulty in treating infections. Using this criterion, S maltophilia is a strong candidate because it is inherently resistant to a wide range of antibiotics …

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