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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Apr;79(7):2428-34. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03586-12. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Changes in enterococcal populations and related antibiotic resistance along a medical center-wastewater treatment plant-river continuum.

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Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, EA4655, CHU de Caen, Caen, France.


To determine if hospital effluent input has an ecological impact on downstream aquatic environment, antibiotic resistance in Enterococcus spp. along a medical center-retirement home-wastewater treatment plant-river continuum in France was determined using a culture-based method. Data on antibiotic consumption among hospitalized and general populations and levels of water contamination by antibiotics were collected. All isolated enterococci were genotypically identified to the species level, tested for in vitro antibiotic susceptibility, and typed by multilocus sequence typing. The erm(B) and mef(A) (macrolide resistance) and tet(M) (tetracycline resistance) genes were detected by PCR. Along the continuum, from 89 to 98% of enterococci, according to the sampled site, were identified as Enterococcus faecium. All E. faecium isolates from hospital and retirement home effluents were multiply resistant to antibiotics, contained erm(B) and mef(A) genes, and belonged to hospital-adapted clonal complex 17 (CC17). Even though this species remained dominant in the downstream continuum, the relative proportion of CC17 isolates progressively decreased in favor of other subpopulations of E. faecium that were more diverse, less resistant to antibiotics, and devoid of the classical macrolide resistance genes and that belonged to various sequence types. Antibiotic concentrations in waters were far below the MICs for susceptible isolates. CC17 E. faecium was probably selected in the gastrointestinal tract of patients under the pressure of administered antibiotics and then excreted together with the resistance genes in waters to progressively decrease along the continuum.

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