The Washing Machine as a Reservoir for Transmission of Extended-Spectrum-Beta-Lactamase (CTX-M-15)-Producing Klebsiella oxytoca ST201 to Newborns

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Oct 30;85(22):e01435-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01435-19. Print 2019 Nov 15.


During the period from April 2012 to May 2013, 13 newborns (1 to 4 weeks of age) and 1 child in a pediatric hospital ward in Germany were colonized with Klebsiella oxytoca producing an extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) (CTX-M-15). A microbiological source-tracking analysis with human and environmental samples was carried out to identify the source and transmission pathways of the K. oxytoca clone. In addition, different hygienic intervention methods were evaluated. K. oxytoca isolates were detected in the detergent drawer and on the rubber door seal of a domestic washer-extractor machine that was used in the same ward to wash laundry for the newborns, as well as in two sinks. These strains were typed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus sequence typing. The environmental findings were compared with those for the human strains and the isolates detected on clothing. The results from both techniques showed that the strains were identical (sequence type 201 and PFGE type 00531, a clone specific to this hospital and not previously isolated in Germany), emphasizing the washing machine as a reservoir and fomite for the transmission of these multidrug-resistant bacteria. After the washing machine was taken out of use, no further colonizations were detected during the subsequent 4-year period.IMPORTANCE Washing machines should be further investigated as possible sites for horizontal gene transfer (ESBL genes) and cross-contamination with clinically important Gram-negative strains. Particularly in the health care sector, the knowledge of possible (re-)contamination of laundry (patients' clothes and staff uniforms) with multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria could help to prevent and to control nosocomial infections. This report describes an outbreak with a single strain of a multidrug-resistant bacterium (Klebsiella oxytoca sequence type 201) in a neonatal intensive care unit that was terminated only when the washing machine was removed. In addition, the study implies that changes in washing machine design and processing are required to prevent accumulation of residual water where microbial growth can occur and contaminate clothes.

Keywords: ESBL-producing bacteria; Klebsiella oxytoca; ST201; colonization; laundry; newborns; washing machine.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Fomites / microbiology*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Klebsiella Infections / prevention & control
  • Klebsiella Infections / transmission*
  • Klebsiella oxytoca / drug effects
  • Klebsiella oxytoca / enzymology
  • Klebsiella oxytoca / isolation & purification
  • Laundry Service, Hospital*
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Rubber*
  • Water Microbiology*
  • beta-Lactamases


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Rubber
  • beta-Lactamases