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Bacteriophage treatment of carbapenemase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae in a multispecies biofilm: a potential biocontrol strategy for healthcare facilities

Clinical and Environmental Microbiology Branch, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

Special Issues: Mastering deleterious Biofilms

The p-traps of hospital handwashing sinks represent a potential reservoir for antimicrobial-resistant organisms of major public health concern, such as carbapenemase-producing KPC+ Klebsiella pneumoniae (CPKP). Bacteriophages have reemerged as potential biocontrol agents, particularly against biofilm-associated, drug-resistant microorganisms. The primary objective of our study was to formulate a phage cocktail capable of targeting a CPKP strain (CAV1016) at different stages of colonization within polymicrobial drinking water biofilms using a CDC biofilm reactor (CBR) p-trap model. A cocktail of four CAV1016 phages, all exhibiting depolymerase activity, were isolated from untreated wastewater using standard methods. Biofilms containing Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Micrococcus luteus, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Elizabethkingia anophelis, Cupriavidus metallidurans, and Methylobacterium fujisawaense were established in the CBR p-trap model for a period of 28 d. Subsequently, CAV1016 was inoculated into the p-trap model and monitored over a period of 21 d. Biofilms were treated for 2 h at either 25 °C or 37 °C with the phage cocktail (10 9 PFU/ml) at 7, 14, and 21 d post-inoculation. The effect of phage treatment on the viability of biofilm-associated CAV1016 was determined by plate count on m-Endo LES agar. Biofilm heterotrophic plate counts (HPC) were determined using R2A agar. Phage titers were determined by plaque assay. Phage treatment reduced biofilm-associated CAV1016 viability by 1 log 10 CFU/cm 2 (p < 0.05) at 7 and 14 d (37 ℃) and 1.4 log 10 and 1.6 log 10 CFU/cm 2 (p < 0.05) at 7 and 14 d, respectively (25 ℃). No significant reduction was observed at 21 d post-inoculation. Phage treatment had no significant effect on the biofilm HPCs (p > 0.05) at any time point or temperature. Supplementation with a non-ionic surfactant appears to enhance phage association within biofilms. The results of this study suggest the potential of phages to control CPKP and other carbapenemase-producing organisms associated with microbial biofilms in the healthcare environment.
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