Detection and typing of integrons in epidemic strains of Acinetobacter baumannii found in the United Kingdom

Jane F Turton, Mary E Kaufmann, Judith Glover, Juliana M Coelho, Marina Warner, Rachel Pike, Tyrone L Pitt
Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2005, 43 (7): 3074-82
Integrons were sought in Acinetobacter isolates from hospitals in the United Kingdom by integrase gene PCR. Isolates were compared by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and most belonged to a small number of outbreak strains or clones of A. baumannii, which are highly successful in the United Kingdom. Class 1 integrons were found in all of the outbreak isolates but in none of the sporadic isolates. No class 2 integrons were found. Three integrons were identified among the main outbreak strains and clones. While a particular integron was usually associated with a strain or clone, some members carried a different integron. Some integrons were associated with more than one strain. The cassette arrays of two of the integrons were very similar, both containing gene aacC1, which confers resistance to gentamicin, two open reading frames coding for unknown products (orfX, orfX'), and gene aadA1a, which confers resistance to spectinomycin and streptomycin. The larger of these integrons had two copies of the first (orfX) of the gene cassettes coding for unknown products. The third integron, with a cassette array containing gene aacA4, which codes for amikacin, netilmicin, and tobramycin resistance; a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, catB8; and gene aadA1, conferring resistance to spectinomycin and streptomycin, was associated with an OXA-23 carbapenemase-producing clone, which has spread rapidly in hospitals in the United Kingdom during 2003 and 2004. These integron cassette arrays have been found in other outbreak strains of A. baumannii from other countries. We conclude that integrons are useful markers for epidemic strains of A. baumannii and that integron typing provides valuable information for epidemiological studies.

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