The aim of this study was to examine antibiotic resistance profiles and diversity of β-lactamases in Escherichia coli present within the population and the potential spread of resistant E. coli into the receiving environment using city-scale sewage surveillance. In E. coli isolates from ECC plates without antibiotics from ten influent samples (n = 300), highest resistance was observed against ampicillin (16.6%), sulfamethoxazole (9.7%) and trimethoprim (9.0%), while in effluent samples (n = 262) it was against sulfamethoxazole (11.8%), ampicillin (11.5%) and tetracycline (8.8%). All isolates (n = 123) obtained on cefotaxime-containing plates were multidrug-resistant. Several clinically important antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) were detected in 46 E. coli isolates subjected to whole-genome sequencing, including carbapenemases like NDM-6, VIM-1 and OXA-48-variant, as well as tigecycline resistance gene tet(X4). CTX-M-15 was the most prevalent (42.9%) extended-spectrum β-lactamase among cefotaxime-resistant isolates, followed by CTX-M-27 (31.4%) and CTX-M-14 (17.1%), resembling clinical prevalence in Norway. Most of the sequenced isolates carried other clinically relevant ARGs, such as dfrA17, sul1, sul2, tet(A), aph(6)-Id, aph(3'')-Ib and aadA5. Sixteen different sequence types (STs) were identified, including ST131 (39.1%), ST38 (10.9%) and ST69 (8.7%). One E. coli isolate belonging to novel ST (ST11874) carried multiple virulence factors including genotoxin, salmochelin, aerobactin and yersiniabactin, suggesting that this isolate has potential to cause health concerns in future. Our study reveals presence of clinically relevant ARGs like blaNDM-6 and tet(X4) in pathogenic strains, which have so far not been reported from the clinics in Norway. Our study may thus, provide a framework for population-based surveillance of antibiotic resistance.
Keywords: Antibiotic resistance genes; ESBLs; Escherichia coli; Norway; Sewage-based surveillance.
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