Hospital-associated infections are a major concern for global public health. Infections with antibiotic-resistant pathogens can cause empiric treatment failure, and for infections with multidrug-resistant bacteria which can overcome antibiotics of “last resort” there exists no alternative treatments. Despite extensive sanitization protocols, the hospital environment is a potent reservoir and vector of antibiotic-resistant organisms. Pathogens can persist on hospital surfaces and plumbing for months to years, acquire new antibiotic resistance genes by horizontal gene transfer, and initiate outbreaks of hospital-associated infections by spreading to patients via healthcare workers and visitors. Advancements in next-generation sequencing of bacterial genomes and metagenomes have expanded our ability to (1) identify species and track distinct strains, (2) comprehensively profile antibiotic resistance genes, and (3) resolve the mobile elements that facilitate intra- and intercellular gene transfer. This information can, in turn, be used to characterize the population dynamics of hospital-associated microbiota, track outbreaks to their environmental reservoirs, and inform future interventions. This review provides a detailed overview of the approaches and bioinformatic tools available to study isolates and metagenomes of hospital-associated bacteria, and their multi-layered networks of transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2585-2606
Number of pages22
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Hospital ICU
  • Microbiome
  • Mobilome
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Resistome


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