Mechanisms of drug resistance in Mycoplasma pneumoniae

C M Bébéar, S Pereyre
Current Drug Targets. Infectious Disorders 2005, 5 (3): 263-71
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a pathogenic mycoplasma responsible for respiratory tract infections in humans, occurring worldwide in children and adults. This review briefly focuses on its antibiotic susceptibility profile and on the development of acquired resistance for this microorganism. The lack of a cell wall in mycoplasmas makes them intrinsically resistant to beta-lactams and to all antimicrobials which target the cell wall. Intrinsic resistance related to specific mycoplasma species concerns essentially the acrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin-ketolide (MLSK) antibiotic group. M. pneumoniae is susceptible to all MLSK antibiotics, except to lincomycin. Among the three antibiotic classes used for the treatment of mycoplasmal infections including tetracyclines, MLSK group, and fluoroquinolones, macrolides and related antibiotics are the drug of choice for respiratory infections caused by M. pneumoniae. Both target alterations and efflux mechanisms implicated in acquired antibiotic resistance have been described in mycoplasmas either by genetic mutation or transfer of new genes carried by transposons. At present, M. pneumoniae remains greatly susceptible to antibiotics, but as this mycoplasma is difficult to isolate, the number of clinical strains tested is limited and the occurrence of acquired resistance not well documented. However some strains having acquired resistance to MLSK have been decribed in vivo and erythromycin-resistant isolates are spreading now in Japan. To date, no clinical isolates resistant to fluoroquinolones or tetracyclines have been described in the literature, but some strains having acquired resistance to both classes have been selected in vitro. Molecular diagnosis of this acquired resistance has been related to target alterations, in ribosome for macrolides and tetracyclines, or in topoisomerase II genes for fluoroquinolones.

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