Vancomycin gene selection in the microbiome of urban Rattus norvegicus from hospital environment

Thomas Arn Hansen, Tejal Joshi, Anders Rhod Larsen, Paal Skytt Andersen, Klaus Harms, Sarah Mollerup, Eske Willerslev, Kurt Fuursted, Lars Peter Nielsen, Anders Johannes Hansen

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    Widespread use of antibiotics has resulted in selection pressure on genes that make bacteria non-responsive to antibiotics. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria are currently a major threat to global health. There are various possibilities for the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes. It has been argued that animal vectors such as Rattus norvegicus (R. norvegicus) living in hospital sewage systems are ideal for carrying pathogens responsible for fatal diseases in humans. Using a metagenomic sequencing approach, we investigated faecal samples of R. norvegicus from three major cities for the presence of antibiotic resistance genes. We show that despite the shared resistome within samples from the same geographic locations, samples from hospital area carry significantly abundant vancomycin resistance genes. The observed pattern is consistent with a selection for vancomycin genes in the R. norvegicus microbiome, potentially driven by the outflow of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the wastewater systems. Carriage of vancomycin resistance may suggest that R. norvegicus is acting as a reservoir for possible transmission to the human population.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEvolution, Medicine, and Public Health
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)219-226
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits
    unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Rattus
    • Antibiotics
    • Metagenomics
    • Rats
    • Selection
    • Vanb
    • Vancomycin
    • Wild

    Cite this

    Arn Hansen, T., Joshi, T., Larsen, A. R., Andersen, P. S., Harms, K., Mollerup, S., Willerslev, E., Fuursted, K., Nielsen, L. P., & Hansen, A. J. (2016). Vancomycin gene selection in the microbiome of urban Rattus norvegicus from hospital environment. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2016(1), 219-226.