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Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Feb 1;66(4):489-493. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix825.

The Transmissibility of Antibiotic-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae in Intensive Care Units.

Author information

Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care.
Department of Medical Microbiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Molecular Microbiology, National Medicines Institute, Warsaw, Poland.
Department of Intensive Care Medicine, University Medical Center Utrecht.
Faculty of Sciences, Department of Mathematics, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.



The global emergence of infections caused by Enterobacteriaceae resistant to expanded-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs) in intensive care units (ICUs) is, at least partly, driven by cross-transmission. Yet, individual transmission capacities of bacterial species have not been quantified.


In this post hoc analysis of a multicenter study in 13 European ICUs, prospective surveillance data and a mathematical model were used to estimate transmission capacities and single-admission reproduction numbers (RA) of Escherichia coli and non-E. coli Enterobacteriaceae (non-EcE), all being ESC resistant. Surveillance was based on a chromogenic selective medium for ESC-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, allowing identification of E. coli and of Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Serratia, and Citrobacter species, grouped as non-EcE.


Among 11420 patients included, the admission prevalence was 3.8% for non-EcE (74% being Klebsiella pneumoniae) and 3.3% for E. coli. Acquisition rates were 7.4 and 2.6 per 100 admissions at risk for non-EcE and E. coli, respectively. The estimated transmission capacity of non-EcE was 3.7 (95% credibility interval [CrI], 1.4-11.3) times higher than that of E. coli, yielding single-admission reproduction numbers (RA) of 0.17 (95% CrI, .094-.29) for non-EcE and 0.047 (95% CrI, .018-.098) for E. coli.


In ICUs, non-EcE, mainly K. pneumoniae, are 3.7 times more transmissible than E. coli. Estimated RA values of these bacteria were below the critical threshold of 1, suggesting that in these ICUs outbreaks typically remain small with current infection control policies.


E. coli; ESBL; K. pneumoniae; reproduction number; transmission capacity

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