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Biofilms in hospital effluents as a potential crossroads for carbapenemase-encoding strains

Abstract : Bacterial resistance to carbapenem, which is mainly due to the successful dissemination of carbapenemase-encoding genes, has become a major health problem. Few studies have aimed to characterize the level of resistance in the environment, notably in hospital wastewater, which is a likely hotspot for exchange of antibiotic resistance genes. In this work, we looked for the presence of imipenem-resistant bacteria and imipenem in the effluent of the teaching hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, France. Selective growth of bacteria from 14-day old biofilms formed in the pipe sewer showed that 22.1% of the isolates were imipenem-resistant and identified as Aeromonas (n = 23), Pseudomonas (n = 10), Stenotrophomonas (n = 4) and Acinetobacter (n = 1). Fifteen of these strains harbored acquired carbapenemase-encoding genes blaVIM (n = 11), blaOXA-48 (n = 2), blaGES (n = 1), blaNDM (n = 1). All isolates also harbored associated resistances to aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones and/or tetracyclin. S1-nuclease pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis of eight selected isolates showed that four of them harbored one to two plasmids of molecular weight between 48.5 Kb and 194 Kb. In vitro transformation assays evidenced the presence of blaVIM and blaNDM on plasmids with the blaVIM harboring 80 Kb plasmid having conjugative capacity. The predicted environmental concentration of imipenem in the hospital effluent was 3.16 μg/L, suggesting that biofilm bacteria are subjected to sub-MICs of imipenem within the effluent. However, no imipenem molecule was detected in the hospital effluent, probably owing to its instability: in vitro assays indicated that imipenem's biological activity was no longer detectable after 45 h of storage. However, the predictive value of the hazard quotient relative to the development of resistance was >1.0 (HQr = 28.9 ± 1.9), which indicates a possible risk. The presence of carbapenemase-encoding genes in hospital effluent biofilm strains and their ability to transfer are therefore a potential hazard that should not be neglected and points to the need for monitoring antibiotic resistance in hospital wastewater.
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J. Ory, G. Bricheux, F. Robin, Anne Togola, C. Forestier, et al.. Biofilms in hospital effluents as a potential crossroads for carbapenemase-encoding strains. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2019, 657, pp.7-15. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.427⟩. ⟨hal-01948443⟩



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