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Transmission of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae and their mobile genetic elements--identification of sources by whole genome sequencing: study protocol for an observational study in Switzerland

17 Feb 2018


Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae were first described in relation with hospital-acquired infections. In the 2000s, the epidemiology of ESBL-producing organisms changed as especially ESBL-producing Escherichia coli was increasingly described as an important cause of community-acquired infections, supporting the hypothesis that in more recent years ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae have probably been imported into hospitals rather than vice versa. Transmission of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae is complicated by ESBL genes being encoded on self-transmissible plasmids, which can be exchanged among the same and different bacterial species. The aim of this research project is to quantify hospital-wide transmission of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae on both the level of bacterial species and the mobile genetic elements and to determine if hospital-acquired infections caused by ESBL producers are related to strains and mobile genetic elements predominantly circulating in the community or in the healthcare setting. This distinction is critical in prevention since the former emphasises the urgent need to establish or reinforce antibiotic stewardship programmes, and the latter would call for more rigorous infection control.

Methods and analysis

This protocol presents an observational study that will be performed at the University Hospital Basel and in the city of Basel, Switzerland. ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae will be collected from any specimens obtained by routine clinical practice or by active screening in both inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as from wastewater samples and foodstuffs, both collected monthly over a 12-month period for analyses by whole genome sequencing. Bacterial chromosomal, plasmid and ESBL-gene sequences will be compared within the cohort to determine genetic relatedness and migration between humans and their environment.

Ethics and dissemination

This study has been approved by the local ethics committee (Ethikkommission Nordwest-und Zentralschweiz) as a quality control project (Project-ID 2017–00100). The results of this study will be published in peer-reviewed medical journals, communicated to participants, the general public and all relevant stakeholders.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open

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