Background: To study the molecular characteristics of a long-term, low frequency outbreak of bla KPC-2 in a low prevalence setting involving the hospital environment.
Methodology/principal findings: KPC-producing bacteria were screened by selective chromogenic agar and Real-Time PCR. The presence of antibiotic resistance genes was ascribed by PCRs and subsequent sequencing, and the KPC-producing isolates were phylogenetically typed using PFGE and multi-locus sequence typing. Bla KPC-2-plasmids were identified and analysed by S1-nuclease-PFGE hybridization and PCR based replicon typing. A ∼97 kb IncFII plasmid was seen to carry bla KPC-2 in all of the clinical isolates, in one of the isolates recovered from screened patients (1/136), and in the Klebsiella pneumoniae and Enterobacter asburiae isolates recovered from the environment (sinks) in one intensive care unit. The K. pneumoniae strain ST258 was identified in 6 out of 7 patients. An intergenus spread to E. asburiae and an interspecies spread to two different K. pneumoniae clones (ST27 and ST461) of the bla KPC-2 plasmid was discovered. K. pneumoniae ST258 and genetically related E. asburiae strains were found in isolates of both human and environmental origins.
Conclusions/significance: We document a clonal transmission of the K. pneumoniae ST258 strain, and an intergenus plasmid diffusion of the IncFII plasmid carrying bla KPC-2 in this outbreak. A major reservoir in the patient population could not be unveiled. However, the identification of a persisting environmental reservoir of strains with molecular determinants linked to human isolates, suggests a possible role of the environment in the maintenance of this long-term outbreak.