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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 May 31;82(12):3605-3610. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00424-16. Print 2016 Jun 15.

Species Diversity of Environmental GIM-1-Producing Bacteria Collected during a Long-Term Outbreak.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, University Hospital, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, University Hospital, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany


Reports of outbreaks concerning carbapenemase-producing Gram-negative bacteria in which the main source of transmission is the hospital environment are increasing. This study describes the results of environmental sampling in a protracted polyspecies metallo-beta-lactamase GIM-1 outbreak driven by plasmids and bacterial clones of Enterobacter cloacae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a tertiary care center. Environmental sampling targeting wet locations (especially sinks) was carried out on a surgical intensive care unit and on a medical ward on several occasions in 2012 and 2013. We were able to demonstrate 43 blaGIM-1-carrying bacteria (mainly nonfermenters but also Enterobacteriaceae) that were either related or unrelated to clinical strains in 30 sinks and one hair washbasin. GIM-1 was found in 12 different species, some of which are described here as carriers of GIM-1. Forty out of 43 bacteria displayed resistance to carbapenems and, in addition, to various non-beta-lactam antibiotics. Colistin resistance was observed in two E. cloacae isolates with MICs above 256 mg/liter. The blaGIM-1 gene was harbored in 12 different class 1 integrons, some without the typical 3' end. The blaGIM-1 gene was localized on plasmids in five isolates. In vitro plasmid transfer by conjugation was successful in one isolate. The environment, with putatively multispecies biofilms, seems to be an important biological niche for multidrug-resistant bacteria and resistance genes. Biofilms may serve as a "melting pot" for horizontal gene transfer, for dissemination into new species, and as a reservoir to propagate future hospital outbreaks.


In Gram-negative bacteria, resistance to the clinically relevant broad-spectrum carbapenem antibiotics is a major public health concern. Major reservoirs for these resistant organisms are not only the gastrointestinal tracts of animals and humans but also the (hospital) environment. Due to the difficulty in eradicating biofilm formation in the latter, a sustained dissemination of multidrug-resistant bacteria from the environment can occur. In addition, horizontal transfer of resistance genes on mobile genetic elements within biofilms adds to the total "resistance gene pool" in the environment. To gain insight into the transmission pathways of a rare and locally restricted carbapenemases resistance gene (blaGIM-1), we analyzed the genetic background of the blaGIM-1 gene in environmental bacteria during a long-term polyspecies outbreak in a German hospital.

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