Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

ABSTRACT Escherichia coli and Klebsiella spp. are important human pathogens that cause a wide spectrum of clinical disease. In healthcare settings, sinks and other wastewater sites have been shown to be reservoirs of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and Klebsiella spp., particularly in the context of outbreaks of resistant strains amongst patients. Without focusing exclusively on resistance markers or a clinical outbreak, we demonstrate that many hospital sink drains are abundantly and persistently colonised with diverse populations of E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Klebsiella oxytoca , including both antimicrobial-resistant and susceptible strains. Using whole genome sequencing (WGS) of 439 isolates, we show that environmental bacterial populations are largely structured by ward and sink, with only a handful of lineages, such as E. coli ST635, being widely distributed, suggesting different prevailing ecologies which may vary as a result of different inputs and selection pressures. WGS of 46 contemporaneous patient isolates identified one (2%; 95% CI 0.05-11%) E. coli urine infection-associated isolate with high similarity to a prior sink isolate, suggesting that sinks may contribute to up to 10% of infections caused by these organisms in patients on the ward over the same timeframe. Using metagenomics from 20 sink-timepoints, we show that sinks also harbour many clinically relevant antimicrobial resistance genes including bla CTX-M , bla SHV and mcr , and may act as niches for the exchange and amplification of these genes. Our study reinforces the potential role of sinks in contributing to Enterobacterales infection and antimicrobial resistance in hospital patients, something that could be amenable to intervention. IMPORTANCE Escherichia coli and Klebsiella spp. cause a wide range of bacterial infections, including bloodstream, urine and lung infections. Previous studies have shown that sink drains in hospitals may be part of transmission chains in outbreaks of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and Klebsiella spp., leading to colonisation and clinical disease in patients. We show that even in non-outbreak settings, contamination of sink drains by these bacteria is common across hospital wards, and that many antimicrobial resistance genes can be found and potentially exchanged in these sink drain sites. Our findings demonstrate that the colonisation of handwashing sink drains by these bacteria in hospitals is likely contributing to some infections in patients, and that additional work is needed to further quantify this risk, and to consider appropriate mitigating interventions.

Original publication




Journal article

Publication Date