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Metallo-beta-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli in the sewage of Mexico City: where do they come from?

Kathia Lüneberg, , Eduardo Mucito-Varela, Leticia Martínez, Eva Salinas, Yolanda López-Vidal, Christina Siebe, Irma Rosas

Abstract: While monitoring the presence of antibiotic resistance in municipal wastewater bacteria from Mexico City, five Escherichia coli isolates were found to be resistant to carbapenems, antibiotics of “last resort” used mostly in hospitals. Further analysis revealed that these carbapenem-resistant isolates carried the gene encoding a metallo-beta-lactamase, NDM-5. The gene was found to be beared by a large, ∼145 kb conjugative plasmid, which also carries putative genes encoding resistance to sulfonamides, trimethoprim, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, and chloramphenicol (although no phenotypic chloramphenicol resistance was detected) and quaternary-ammonium compounds. The plasmid also carried gene mobility determinants, such as integron integrase and two transposases. In addition to the direct public health threat posed by the presence of such multi-resistant organisms in wastewater released into the environment and used for crop irrigation; it is particularly concerning that carbapenem-resistant E. coli is rather rare in Mexican hospitals (<1%), but was found in small, 100 mL samples of municipal wastewater. This suggests that these organisms are under-reported by clinical microbiology laboratories, underlining the usefulness of wastewater monitoring, or that there is an unknown source of such carbapenem-resistant organisms that are being dumped into the wastewater. The source of these bacteria must be assessed and controlled to prevent further spread of this multi-resistance plasmid among other environmental and clinical microorganisms.
Keywords: wastewater / coli / carbapenem resistant / Escherichia / Mexico / chloramphenicol / antibiotic / microorganisms / Metallo

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