Aims: We compared the prevalence of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) producers in the faecal samples of 1,109 healthy individuals screened for employment purposes and in 531 asymptomatic individuals applying for long-term care (LTC). Methods: Eosin-methylene blue agar plates supplemented with 2 mg/l cefotaxime were used to determine which individuals were ESBL producers. ESBL phenotype was confirmed by double-disk synergy test and ESBL genes were identified by sequencing. ESBL producers were characterized by co-resistance and integron carriage. Results: ESBL producers were more frequent in the LTC applicants than in the employment screening individuals (7.2 vs. 2.0%; p < 0.0001), with 43 Escherichia coli, 18 Klebsiella pneumoniae, 1 Klebsiella oxytoca and 1 Proteus mirabilis being found. In the employment screening individuals, only E. coli was found. Most ESBL genes (79.4%, 50/63) were blaCTX-M type; blaCTX-M-15 was more frequent in the LTC applicants (p < 0.001). Regarding ESBL genes and integron diversity, E. coli isolates from the LTC applicants were more similar to K. pneumoniae than to E. coli from the employment screening individuals. Conclusion: These differences in the characteristics of ESBL producers may represent different sources of colonization. Most LTC applicants harboured K. pneumoniae or E. coli that were probably hospital-acquired whereas the E. coli isolates of many healthy individuals showed similarities to environmental E. coli.

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