Metagenomic characterization of ambulances across the USA.

TitleMetagenomic characterization of ambulances across the USA.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsO'Hara NB, Reed HJ, Afshinnekoo E, Harvin D, Caplan N, Rosen G, Frye B, Woloszynek S, Ounit R, Levy S, Butler E, Mason CE
Date Published2017 Sep 22

BACKGROUND: Microbial communities in our built environments have great influence on human health and disease. A variety of built environments have been characterized using a metagenomics-based approach, including some healthcare settings. However, there has been no study to date that has used this approach in pre-hospital settings, such as ambulances, an important first point-of-contact between patients and hospitals.

RESULTS: We sequenced 398 samples from 137 ambulances across the USA using shotgun sequencing. We analyzed these data to explore the microbial ecology of ambulances including characterizing microbial community composition, nosocomial pathogens, patterns of diversity, presence of functional pathways and antimicrobial resistance, and potential spatial and environmental factors that may contribute to community composition. We found that the top 10 most abundant species are either common built environment microbes, microbes associated with the human microbiome (e.g., skin), or are species associated with nosocomial infections. We also found widespread evidence of antimicrobial resistance markers (hits ~‚ÄČ90% samples). We identified six factors that may influence the microbial ecology of ambulances including ambulance surfaces, geographical-related factors (including region, longitude, and latitude), and weather-related factors (including temperature and precipitation).

CONCLUSIONS: While the vast majority of microbial species classified were beneficial, we also found widespread evidence of species associated with nosocomial infections and antimicrobial resistance markers. This study indicates that metagenomics may be useful to characterize the microbial ecology of pre-hospital ambulance settings and that more rigorous testing and cleaning of ambulances may be warranted.

Alternate JournalMicrobiome
PubMed ID28938903
PubMed Central IDPMC5610413
Grant ListR01 AI125416 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States