Comparative genomics of multidrug-resistant Enterococcus spp. isolated from wastewater treatment plants Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Abstract Background Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are considered hotspots for the environmental dissemination of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) determinants. Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) are candidates for gauging the degree of AMR bacteria in wastewater. Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium are recognized indicators of fecal contamination in water. Comparative genomics of enterococci isolated from conventional activated sludge (CAS) and biological aerated filter (BAF) WWTPs was conducted. Results VRE isolates, including E. faecalis (n = 24), E. faecium (n = 11), E. casseliflavus (n = 2) and E. gallinarum (n = 2) were selected for sequencing based on WWTP source, species and AMR phenotype. The pangenomes of E. faecium and E. faecalis were both open. The genomic fraction related to the mobilome was positively correlated with genome size in E. faecium (p < 0.001) and E. faecalis (p < 0.001) and with the number of AMR genes in E. faecium (p = 0.005). Genes conferring vancomycin resistance, including vanA and vanM (E. faecium), vanG (E. faecalis), and vanC (E. casseliflavus/E. gallinarum), were detected in 20 genomes. The most prominent functional AMR genes were efflux pumps and transporters. A minimum of 16, 6, 5 and 3 virulence genes were detected in E. faecium, E. faecalis, E. casseliflavus and E. gallinarum, respectively. Virulence genes were more common in E. faecalis and E. faecium, than E. casseliflavus and E. gallinarum. A number of mobile genetic elements were shared among species. Functional CRISPR/Cas arrays were detected in 13 E. faecalis genomes, with all but one also containing a prophage. The lack of a functional CRISPR/Cas arrays was associated with multi-drug resistance in E. faecium. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated differential clustering of isolates based on original source but not WWTP. Genes related to phage and CRISPR/Cas arrays could potentially serve as environmental biomarkers. Conclusions There was no discernible difference between enterococcal genomes from the CAS and BAF WWTPs. E. faecalis and E. faecium have smaller genomes and harbor more virulence, AMR, and mobile genetic elements than other Enterococcus spp.


  • Sanderson, Haley
  • Ortega-Polo, Rodrigo
  • Zaheer, Rahat
  • Goji, Noriko
  • Amoako, Kingsley K
  • Brown, R Stephen
  • Majury, Anna
  • Liss, Steven N
  • McAllister, Tim A

publication date

  • December 2020