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Vancomycin-resistant enterococci with vanA gene in treated municipal wastewater and their association with human hospital strains

Oravcova, Veronika, Mihalcin, Matus, Zakova, Jana, Pospisilova, Lucie, Masarikova, Martina, Literak, Ivan
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.609 pp. 633-643
Enterococcus casseliflavus, Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus gallinarum, Enterococcus raffinosus, Laridae, antibiotic resistance, cloaca, feces, genes, genetic variation, hospitals, humans, matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization mass spectrometry, multilocus sequence typing, municipal wastewater, pathogens, patients, polymerase chain reaction, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, risk, virulence, wastewater treatment, Czech Republic
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) are pathogens of increasing medical importance. In Brno, Czech Republic, we collected 37 samples from the effluent of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), 21 surface swabs from hospital settings, and 59 fecal samples from hospitalized patients and staff. Moreover, we collected 284 gull cloacal swabs from the colony situated 35km downstream the WWTP. Samples were cultured selectively. Enterococci were identified using MALDI-TOF MS, phenotypically tested for susceptibility to antibiotics, and by PCR for occurrence of resistance and virulence genes. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) were used to examine genotypic diversity. VRE carrying the vanA gene were found in 32 (86%, n=37) wastewater samples, from which we obtained 49 isolates: Enterococcus faecium (44) and Enterococcus gallinarum (2), Enterococcus casseliflavus (2), and Enterococcus raffinosus (1). From 33 (69%) of 48 inpatient stool samples, we obtained 39 vanA-carrying VRE, which belonged to E. faecium (33 isolates), Enterococcus faecalis (4), and Enterococcus raffinosus (2). Nearly one-third of the samples from hospital surfaces contained VRE with the vanA gene. VRE were not detected among gulls. Sixty-seven (84%, n=80) E. faecium isolates carried virulence genes hyl and/or esp. Virulence of E. faecalis was encoded by gelE, asa1, and cylA genes. A majority of the E. faecium isolates belonged to the clinically important sequence types ST17 (WWTP: 10 isolates; hospital: 4 isolates), ST18 (9;8), and ST78 (5;0). The remaining isolates belonged to ST555 (2;0), ST262 (1;6), ST273 (3;0), ST275 (1;0), ST549 (2;0), ST19 (0;1), ST323 (3;0), and ST884 (7;17). Clinically important enterococci carrying the vanA gene were almost continually detectable in the effluent of the WWTP, indicating insufficient removal of VRE during wastewater treatment and permanent shedding of these antibiotic resistant pathogens into the environment from this source. This represents a risk of their transmission to the environment.