Today's Clinical Lab - News, Editorial and Products for the Clinical Laboratory
A gloved hand holds a Petri plate with bacterial colonies and antibiotic discs for susceptibility testing.
Antimicrobial resistance makes infections harder to treat and increases the risks associated with other medical procedures and treatments.
iStock, jarun011

New Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterial Species Identified

Researchers have discovered a new species of bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics

University of Limerick

ViewFull Profile
Learn about ourEditorial Policies.
Published:Jan 16, 2024
|2 min read
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify

Researchers at the University of Limerick (UL) in Ireland have discovered a new species of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. The researchers at UL’s School of Medicine identified a novel antibiotic-resistant bacterial species that is capable of colonizing patients in a hospital setting.

The new bacterial species was found in the wastewater system of University Hospital Limerick, while it was also identified from swabs taken from a patient admitted to one of the hospital’s wards. It comes following an extensive and unique study that saw the researchers, in partnership with University Hospital Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast, dive deep into the hospital’s wastewater to find a reservoir of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

The new study, led by Colum Dunne, BSc (Hons), PhD, MBA, LLM, professor and head of UL School of Medicine and recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, details large-scale genomic and microbiology analysis that was completed on UHL’s wastewater system. The results were correlated with samples taken from patients as part of the hospital’s cautious approach to managing the microbiology and infection risk.

Characterizing novel antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Laboratory analysis found that the new species is resistant to many commonly used antibiotics, including some that are reserved for resistant bacteria. Fortunately, the patient, who was asymptomatic, did not need treatment with these drugs. 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major challenge that may be directly responsible for over 1 million global deaths annually. AMR makes infections harder to treat and increases the risks associated with other medical procedures and treatments. One problem associated with AMR is hospital-acquired infection, which occurs when people who are admitted to the hospital for treatment become infected by microbes circulating in the hospital wards.

The metagenomic analysis allowed a comprehensive understanding of the bacterial communities present in the hospital waterworks. It enabled profiling of all the antimicrobial resistance genes carried by the bacteria present. Dunne said, “Our research strategy emphasizes clarification on real-world problems and seeks solutions. In this situation, bacteria were isolated from a patient who had been swabbed as part of a routine safety process put in place with the support of the hospital’s management team.

The bacterial family, called Pseudocitrobacter, has only recently been classified and we found that our isolate is a new addition to that family, having not been reported elsewhere and never isolated from a human sample. While an exciting microbiology find, it is important that we stress that the patient remained colonized only, asymptomatic, and did not merit antimicrobial treatment for this species.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, co-author and lecturer in pharmaceutical microbiomics at QUB’s School of Pharmacy, added, “Studying this microorganism and its genome was very interesting, not only due to initial challenges in uncovering its identity but also due to its clinical relevance. This research again highlights the benefits of high-level collaboration between academic and clinical partners.”

- This press release was originally published on the University of Limerick website