Genomic Characterization of Colistin Heteroresistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae during a Nosocomial Outbreak

Teysir Halaby, Emre Kucukkose, Axel B Janssen, Malbert R C Rogers, Dennis J Doorduijn, Adri G M van der Zanden, Nashwan Al Naiemi, Christina M J E Vandenbroucke-Grauls, Willem van Schaik

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66 Citations (Scopus)


Klebsiella pneumoniae is emerging as an important nosocomial pathogen due to its rapidly increasing multidrug resistance, which has led to a renewed interest in polymyxin antibiotics, such as colistin, as antibiotics of last resort. However, heteroresistance (i.e., the presence of a subpopulation of resistant bacteria in an otherwise susceptible culture) may hamper the effectiveness of colistin treatment in patients. In a previous study, we showed that colistin resistance among extended-spectrum-beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing K. pneumoniae isolates emerged after the introduction of selective digestive tract decontamination (SDD) in an intensive care unit (ICU). In this study, we investigated heteroresistance to colistin among ESBL-producing K. pneumoniae isolates by using population analysis profiles (PAPs). We used whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to identify the mutations that were associated with the emergence of colistin resistance in these K. pneumoniae isolates. We found five heteroresistant subpopulations, with colistin MICs ranging from 8 to 64 mg/liter, which were derived from five clonally related, colistin-susceptible clinical isolates. WGS revealed the presence of mutations in the lpxM, mgrB, phoQ, and yciM genes in colistin-resistant K. pneumoniae isolates. In two strains, mgrB was inactivated by an IS3-like or ISKpn14 insertion sequence element. Complementation in trans with the wild-type mgrB gene resulted in these strains reverting to colistin susceptibility. The MICs for colistin-susceptible strains increased 2- to 4-fold in the presence of the mutated phoQ, lpxM, and yciM alleles. In conclusion, the present study indicates that heteroresistant K. pneumoniae subpopulations may be selected for upon exposure to colistin. Mutations in mgrB and phoQ have previously been associated with colistin resistance, but we provide experimental evidence for roles of mutations in the yciM and lpxM genes in the emergence of colistin resistance in K. pneumoniae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6837-6843
Number of pages7
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

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