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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e49300. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049300. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

Tracking down antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates in a wastewater network.

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Service d'Hygiène Hospitalière, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Besançon, France.


The Pseudomonas aeruginosa-containing wastewater released by hospitals is treated by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), generating sludge, which is used as a fertilizer, and effluent, which is discharged into rivers. We evaluated the risk of dissemination of antibiotic-resistant P. aeruginosa (AR-PA) from the hospital to the environment via the wastewater network. Over a 10-week period, we sampled weekly 11 points (hospital and urban wastewater, untreated and treated water, sludge) of the wastewater network and the river upstream and downstream of the WWTP of a city in eastern France. We quantified the P. aeruginosa load by colony counting. We determined the susceptibility to 16 antibiotics of 225 isolates, which we sorted into three categories (wild-type, antibiotic-resistant and multidrug-resistant). Extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs) and metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs) were identified by gene sequencing. All non-wild-type isolates (n = 56) and a similar number of wild-type isolates (n = 54) were genotyped by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus sequence typing. Almost all the samples (105/110, 95.5%) contained P. aeruginosa, with high loads in hospital wastewater and sludge (≥3×10(6) CFU/l or/kg). Most of the multidrug-resistant isolates belonged to ST235, CC111 and ST395. They were found in hospital wastewater and some produced ESBLs such as PER-1 and MBLs such as IMP-29. The WWTP greatly reduced P. aeruginosa counts in effluent, but the P. aeruginosa load in the river was nonetheless higher downstream than upstream from the WWTP. We conclude that the antibiotic-resistant P. aeruginosa released by hospitals is found in the water downstream from the WWTP and in sludge, constituting a potential risk of environmental contamination.

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