This was a preliminary study to test for the presence of multiple antibiotic-resistant extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) producing bacteria in Malaysian urban surface waters. Although the literature review revealed several published papers on clinical ESBL isolates in Malaysia, none were found on ESBL isolates obtained from local surface waters.
Isolated bacterial species were tested for resistance to cefotaxime, amoxicillin/clavulanate and aztreonam, and susceptibility to imipenem and meropenem using antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) by disc diffusion. This served as a screening step to detect bacteria that could be potential ESBL species. 16S ribose ribonucleic acid (rRNA) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with two clusters of bla
(β-lactamase) gene primers was used to test for the bla genes CTX-M (Groups 1, 2, 9), OXA-1, SHV and TEM.
A total of 19 isolates were found, possessing at least one of the bla genes tested for. There was a relatively high occurrence of CTX-M genes (84.2%) among these, followed by TEM genes (47.4%). The isolates were identified as Enterobacteriaceae (89.5%), predominantly Escherichia coli
and Klebsiella pneumoniae
There appears to be a high occurrence of ESBL-bacteria in local surface waters, among these being opportunistic pathogens. The persistence and spread of these species in the environment poses a threat to exposed human populations.