Pseudomonas aeruginosa chromosomal beta-lactamase in patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic lung infection. Mechanism of antibiotic resistance and target of the humoral immune response

Oana Ciofu
APMIS. Supplementum 2003, (116): 1-47
The intensive antibiotic treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with chronic lung infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa has improved the survival rate and the clinical condition of Danish patients. Acquirement of resistance to anti-pseudomonal antibiotics is one of the main drawbacks of this therapeutic strategy and our results showed the development of resistance of P. aeruginosa to several antibiotics during 25 years of intensive antibiotic treatment. Our studies have been concentrating on the development of resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. We have shown an association between the development of resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics and the occurrence of high beta-lactamase producing strains and between the MIC of the beta-lactams and the levels of beta-lactamase expression. Partially derepressed mutants, characterized by high basal levels of beta-lactamase with the possibility of induction to even higher levels during treatment with beta-lactam antibiotics, were the most frequent phenotype found among resistant Danish P. aeruginosa CF isolates. We have also shown that the high alginate producing P. aeruginosa isolates, that characterize the chronic lung infection in CF patients, are more susceptible to antibiotics and produce less beta-lactamase than the non-mucoid paired isolates. We propose that the non-mucoid isolates are exposed to a relatively higher antibiotic pressure than the mucoid isolates and therefore, they become easily antibiotic resistant and in consequence produce high levels of beta-lactamase. The beta-lactamase produced by the non-mucoid isolates might play a protective role in the biofilm, defending the mucoid isolates from the action of beta-lactam antibiotics and helping them to maintain their antibiotic susceptibility. We have also shown that beta-lactamase, which is a periplasmic enzyme, can be secreted extracellulary packed in membrane vesicles liberated by high beta-lactamase-producing P. aeruginosa. The continuos presence in the CF lungs of bacteria producing high basal levels of beta-lactamase (partial derepressed) induces a humoral immune response to beta-lactamase. We have shown that antibodies against the chromosomally encoded beta-lactamase (a beta ab) might be considered a marker of the development of resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. We investigated the humoral immune response to beta-lactamase by quantifying a beta ab specific IgG and IgG subclass antibodies, by investigating the influence of the allotypes on the IgG subclass response and by measuring the avidity of the IgG a beta ab. We found that CF patients with good lung function had in the early stages of the chronic lung infection higher titers of a beta ab of good avidity than patients with poor lung function. Therefore, we raised the hypothesis that some of the a beta ab might have beta-lactamase neutralizing effect, playing a beta-lactamase inhibitor role and improving the effect of the treatment with beta-lactam antibiotics. Finally, we tested our hypothesis in the rat model of chronic lung infection by assessing the effect of a beta ab raised by vaccination with purified chromosomal beta-lactamase on the outcome of the treatment with ceftazidime of bacteria resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics. Our results showed that significantly lower bacterial load and better lung pathology were found in rats with neutralizing antibodies compared to non-immunized rats or rats without neutralizing antibodies. Our findings might be of potential importance for the improvement of the treatment with beta-lactam antibiotics of resistant P. aeruginosa hyperproducing chromosomal beta-lactamase that represent a threat especially for patients with CF and chronic lung infection.

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