BACKGROUND Burkholderia cepacia is a common environmental bacterium that is resistant to disinfectants, and therefore is often encountered as a hospital-acquired pathogen. We describe an outbreak of B. cenocepacia bacteremia among hospitalized oncology patients. METHODS A matched case-control study and an extensive environmental investigation were conducted. Species were identified by RFLP of the amplified recA gene. DNA was fingerprinted by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). RESULTS Between November 2005 and September 2006, B. cenocepacia bacteremia developed in 17 patients with underlying malignancy of whom 14 had tunneled central venous catheters. All patients had fever and chills which subsided following removal of the central catheter and administration of ceftazidime. Extensive epidemiological investigation could not find a common source for the outbreak. Patients were hospitalized in three different buildings with different health care personnel. Medications were prepared in different sites by different personnel. A multivariate analysis demonstrated that the independent risk factors for developing nosocomial B. cenocepacia bacteremia were hospitalization at the center for long-term support (OR 28.8; 95% CI 1.83-453.4) and reduced use of antibiotics during the last month (OR 0.07; 95% CI 0.01-0.40). All isolates had identical antimicrobial susceptibility; PFGE indicated that a complex of closely related strains was involved in the outbreak. All isolates were identified as B. cenocepacia, known to infect cystic fibrosis patients. Strict infection control measures terminated the outbreak. CONCLUSIONS B. cenocepacia is an emerging nosocomial pathogen among oncology patients.