This study is aimed to assess if hospital effluents represent an important supplier of multidrug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria that, being discharged in the municipal collector, may be disseminated in the environment and bypassed in water quality control systems. From a set of 101 non-Escherichia coli Gram-negative bacteria with reduced susceptibility to quinolones, was selected a group of isolates comprised by those with the highest indices of MDR (defined as nonsusceptibility to at least one agent in six or more antimicrobial categories, MDR >= 6) or resistance to meropenem or ceftazidime (n = 25). The isolates were identified and characterized for antibiotic resistance phenotype, plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance (PMQR) genes, and other genetic elements and conjugative capacity. The isolates with highest MDR indices were mainly from hospital effluent and comprised ubiquitous bacterial groups of the class Gammaproteobacteria, of the genera Aeromonas, Acinetobacter, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas, and of the class Flavobacteriia, of the genera Chryseobacterium and Myroides. In this group of 25 strains, 19 identified as Gammaproteobacteria harbored at least one PMQR gene (aac(6 ')-Ib-cr, qnrB, qnrS, or oqxAB) or a class 1 integron gene cassette encoding aminoglycoside, sulfonamide, or carbapenem resistance. Most of the E. coli J53 transconjugants with acquired antibiotic resistance resulted from conjugation with Enterobacteriaceae. These transconjugants demonstrated acquired resistance to a maximum of five classes of antibiotics, one or more PMQR genes and/or a class 1 integron gene cassette. This study shows that ubiquitous bacteria, other than those monitored in water quality controls, are important vectors of antibiotic resistance and can be disseminated from hospital effluent to aquatic environments. This information is relevant to support management options aiming at the control of this public health problem.
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