Contamination of hospital sinks with microbial pathogens presents a serious potential threat to patients, but our understanding of sink colonization dynamics is largely based on infection outbreaks. Here, we investigate the colonization patterns of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) in intensive care unit sinks and water from two hospitals in the USA and Pakistan collected over 27 months of prospective sampling. Using culture-based methods, we recovered 822 bacterial isolates representing 104 unique species and genomospecies. Genomic analyses revealed long-term colonization by Pseudomonas spp. and Serratia marcescens strains across multiple rooms. Nanopore sequencing uncovered examples of long-term persistence of resistance-conferring plasmids in unrelated hosts. These data indicate that antibiotic resistance (AR) in Pseudomonas spp. is maintained both by strain colonization and horizontal gene transfer (HGT), while HGT maintains AR within Acinetobacter spp. and Enterobacterales, independent of colonization. These results emphasize the importance of proactive, genomic-focused surveillance of built environments to mitigate MDRO spread.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • genomic epidemiology
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • hospital surveillance
  • plasmid ecology
  • whole-genome sequencing


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