Cartography of opportunistic pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes in a tertiary hospital environment

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Although disinfection is key to infection control, the colonization patterns and resistomes of hospital-environment microbes remain underexplored. We report the first extensive genomic characterization of microbiomes, pathogens and antibiotic resistance cassettes in a tertiary-care hospital, from repeated sampling (up to 1.5 years apart) of 179 sites associated with 45 beds. Deep shotgun metagenomics unveiled distinct ecological niches of microbes and antibiotic resistance genes characterized by biofilm-forming and human-microbiome-influenced environments with corresponding patterns of spatiotemporal divergence. Quasi-metagenomics with nanopore sequencing provided thousands of high-contiguity genomes, phage and plasmid sequences (>60% novel), enabling characterization of resistome and mobilome diversity and dynamic architectures in hospital environments. Phylogenetics identified multidrug-resistant strains as being widely distributed and stably colonizing across sites. Comparisons with clinical isolates indicated that such microbes can persist in hospitals for extended periods (>8 years), to opportunistically infect patients. These findings highlight the importance of characterizing antibiotic resistance reservoirs in hospitals and establish the feasibility of systematic surveys to target resources for preventing infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-951
Number of pages11
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by A*STAR (N.N.), and we are grateful for support from NMRC (NMRC CGAug16C005: O.T.N. and K.M.). C.E.M. acknowledges support from the WorldQuant Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1151054) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (G-2015-13964). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to thank J. Gilbert for insightful comments and feedback on this work.

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