Droplets Generated From Toilets During Urination as Possible Vehicle of Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae

In the healthcare setting, infection control actions are fundamental for containing the dissemination of multidrug-resistant bacteria (MDR). Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales (CPE), especially Klebsiella pneumoniae (CR-KP), can spread among patients, although the dynamics of transmission are not fully known. Since CR-KP is present in wastewater and microorganisms are not completely removed from the toilet bowl by flushing, the risk of transmission in settings where toilets are shared should be addressed. Arena, et al. (2021) investigated whether urinating generates droplets that can be a vehicle for bacteria and explored the use of an innovative foam to control and eliminate this phenomenon.

To study droplet formation during urination, the researchers set up an experiment in which different geometrical configurations of toilets could be reproduced and customized. To demonstrate that droplets can mobilize bacteria from the toilet bowl, a standard ceramic toilet was contaminated with a KPC-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae ST101 isolate. Then, the researchers reproduced urination and attached culture dishes to the bottom of the toilet lid for bacterial colony recovery with and without foam.

Rebound droplets invariably formed, irrespective of the geometrical configuration of the toilet. In microbiological experiments, the researchers demonstrated that bacteria are always mobilized from the toilet bowl (mean value: 0.11 ± 0.05 CFU/cm2) and showed that a specific foam layer can completely suppress mobilization.

The researchers say their study demonstrated that droplets generated from toilets during urination can be a hidden source of CR-KP transmission in settings where toilets are shared among colonized and noncolonized patients.

Reference: Arena F, et al. Droplets generated from toilets during urination as a possible vehicle of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. Vol. 10, article number 149, (2021).