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To explore the role of the community as a potential reservoir for Acinetobacter baumannii.
Antimicrobial resistance patterns and genotypes of A. baumannii isolates from patients in two Manhattan hospitals were compared with those of A. baumannii isolates from the hands of community members.
A total of 103 isolates from two hospitals (hospital A, 81; hospital B, 22) and 23 isolates from community residents were studied. Of the hospital isolates, 36.6% were multidrug resistant (hospital A, 68.2%; hospital B, 27.8%). In contrast, there were no multidrug-resistant isolates from the community (P < .005 between hospital and community). The prevalence of A. baumannii on the hands of community residents was 10.4% (23 of 222). By molecular typing, 42 strains of A. baumannii were identified. Of the isolates from hospital A and hospital B, 55.6% (45 of 81) and 68.2% (15 of 22), respectively, were indistinguishable or closely related. In contrast, most community (83.3%) isolates were unrelated (P = .001 between hospital and community).
Acinetobacter isolates from the community, characterized by a large variety of unrelated strains (83.3%), were distinct from the hospital isolates, of which 58.3% were closely related. The absence of multidrug-resistant strains in the community compared with 36.6% prevalence among hospital isolates suggests that the reservoir for epidemic strains resides in the hospital environment itself. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the community as a potential reservoir for hospital strains of A. baumannii.
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