Surviving but stigmatised: Making sense of living with Burkholderia cepacia

Elaine Smallman, Kate Russo, Amanda Crossan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Infection control policies recommend segregation of people with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) according to bacterial status. This involves isolating those people with cepacia from all other CF patients in order to prevent additional infection. These policies are reliant on the understanding and adherence of those colonised with cepacia. Service user reports suggest that emotions like anxiety and anger are aroused when those with cepacia are faced with cross infection measures (UK CF Trust, 2009). No studies to date investigate this anecdotal emotional reaction. This research was conducted to ask what it is like to live with cepacia, using in depth interviews. A phenomenological approach was used. Three themes that appeared to characterise the experience of living with cepacia were identified: (1) Lost Identity: cepacia can challenge one’s self identity, and along with cross infection measures lead to feeling objectified and even alienated from the CF group identity. (2) Status: Condemned: being colonised with cepacia brings with it knowledge of a certain type of restricted future, and an imagined death. There is loss of normality and hope. (3) I Am Cepacia: making decisions about preventing cross infection is influenced by medical knowledge as well as human emotions and social information; therefore adherence to these measures is fluid and contextual. These themes have real world clinical implications for all CF services, where preventing the spread of cepacia is paramount. Responsibility for cross infection is a burden and requires knowledge and understanding from both those living with and without cepacia. We need to see beyond the bacteria to the person.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Cystic Fibrosis
EditionSupp 1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Surviving but stigmatised: Making sense of living with Burkholderia cepacia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this