University of Limerick
OConnell_2023_Large-scale.pdf (2.42 MB)

Large-scale characterization of hospital wastewater system microbiomes and clinical isolates from infected patients: profiling of multi-drug-resistant microbial species

Download (2.42 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-13, 12:04 authored by S.A. Kelly, Nuala H. O’Connell, T.P. Thompson, L Dillon, J Wu, C. Creevey, PATRICK KIELYPATRICK KIELY, B. Slevin, J Powell, B.F. Gilmore, COLUM DUNNECOLUM DUNNE


Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and infectious agents exhibiting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are challenges globally. Environmental patient-facing wastewater apparatus including handwashing sinks, showers and toilets are increasingly identified as sources of infectious agents and AMR genes.


To provide large-scale metagenomics analysis of wastewater systems in a large teaching hospital in the Republic of Ireland experiencing multi-drug-resistant HAI outbreaks.


Wastewater pipe sections (N=20) were removed immediately prior to refurbishment of a medical ward where HAIs had been endemic. These comprised toilet U-bends, and sink and shower drains. Following DNA extraction, each pipe section underwent metagenomic analysis.


Diverse taxonomic and resistome profiles were observed, with members of phyla Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria dominating (38.23 ± 5.68% and 15.78 ± 3.53%, respectively). Genomes of five clinical isolates were analysed. These AMR bacterial isolates were from patients >48 h post-admission to the ward. Genomic analysis determined that the isolates bore a high number of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs).


Comparison of resistome profiles of isolates and wastewater metagenomes revealed high degrees of similarity, with many identical ARGs shared, suggesting probable acquisition post-admission. The highest numbers of ARGs observed were those encoding resistance to clinically significant and commonly used antibiotic classes. Average nucleotide identity analysis confirmed the presence of highly similar or identical genomes in clinical isolates and wastewater pipes. These unique large-scale analyses reinforce the need for regular cleaning and decontamination of patient-facing hospital wastewater pipes and effective infection control policies to prevent transmission of nosocomial infection and emergence of AMR within potential wastewater reservoirs.



Journal of Hospital Infection, 2023, 141, pp. 152-166



Also affiliated with

  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Sustainable development goals

  • (6) Clean Water and Sanitation
  • (7) Affordable and Clean Energy

Department or School

  • School of Medicine

Usage metrics

    University of Limerick