Background: Romania is one of the European countries reporting very high antimicrobial resistance (AMR) rates and consumption of antimicrobials. We aimed to characterize the AMR profiles and clonality of 304 multi-drug resistant (MDR) Acinetobacter baumannii (Ab) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa) strains isolated during two consecutive years (2018 and 2019) from hospital settings, hospital collecting sewage tanks and the receiving wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located in the main geographical regions of Romania.
Methods: The strains were isolated on chromogenic media and identified by MALDI-TOF-MS. Antibiotic susceptibility testing and confirmation of ESBL- and CP- producing phenotypes and genotypes were performed. The genetic characterization also included horizontal gene transfer experiments, whole-genome sequencing (WGS), assembling, annotation and characterization.
Results: Both clinical and aquatic isolates exhibited high MDR rates, especially the Ab strains isolated from nosocomial infections and hospital effluents. The phenotypic resistance profiles and MDR rates have largely varied by sampling point and geographic location. The highest MDR rates in the aquatic isolates were recorded in Galați WWTP, followed by Bucharest. The Ab strains harbored mostly blaOXA-23, blaOXA-24, blaSHV, blaTEM and blaGES, while Pa strains blaIMP, blaVIM, blaNDM, blaVEB, blaGES and blaTEM, with high variations depending on the geographical zone and the sampling point. The WGS analysis revealed the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) to other antibiotic classes, such as aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, sulphonamides, fosfomycin, phenicols, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole as well as class 1 integrons. The molecular analyses highlighted: (i) The presence of epidemic clones such as ST2 for Ab and ST233 and ST357 for Pa; (ii) The relatedness between clinical and hospital wastewater strains and (iii) The possible dissemination of clinical Ab belonging to ST2 (also proved in the conjugation assays for blaOXA-23 or blaOXA-72 genes), ST79 and ST492 and of Pa strains belonging to ST357, ST640 and ST621 in the wastewaters.
Conclusion: Our study reveals the presence of CP-producing Ab and Pa in all sampling points and the clonal dissemination of clinical Ab ST2 strains in the wastewaters. The prevalent clones were correlated with the presence of class 1 integrons, suggesting that these isolates could be a significant reservoir of ARGs, being able to persist in the environment.
Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance; Epidemic clones; Nonfermenting gram-negative Bacilli; Nosocomial infections; Wastewater.
© 2022. The Author(s).