Emergence of RmtB methylase-producing Escherichia coli and Enterobacter cloacae isolates from pigs in China

Lin Chen, Zhang-Liu Chen, Jian-Hua Liu, Zhen-Ling Zeng, Jun-Ying Ma, Hong-Xia Jiang
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2007, 59 (5): 880-5

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the occurrence of 16S rRNA methylases conferring high-level resistance to aminoglycosides in Enterobacteriaceae isolated from two pig farms in China.

METHODS: Enterobacteriaceae isolated from 151 pig rectal swab samples and 9 environmental samples were screened for the presence of the rmtA, rmtB, armA and rmtC genes by PCR and sequencing. Conjugation experiments were carried out to study the transferability of the 16S rRNA methylase genes. All isolates and their transconjugants were tested for susceptibility to antimicrobial agents. The clonal relatedness of RmtB-producing Escherichia coli was assessed by PFGE with XbaI.

RESULTS: Of 152 Enterobacteriaceae isolates recovered from pigs, 49 (32%) were positive for the rmtB gene, including 48 E. coli and a single isolate of Enterobacter cloacae. Of the nine Enterobacteriaceae isolates from environmental samples, no 16S rRNA methylase gene was identified. The 49 rmtB-positive isolates showed resistance to ampicillin, tetracycline and trimethoprim and also carried a bla(TEM) gene. Transfer of the rmtB and bla(TEM) genes by conjugation experiments of all 49 isolates was successful, suggesting that the rmtB-containing plasmids in the E. coli and E. cloacae isolates were self-transmissible. Conjugative transfer frequencies varied from 2.2 x 10(-10) to 1.3 x 10(-6) transconjugants per recipient. The transfer of non-aminoglycoside antimicrobial resistance traits was also observed in most cases. Forty-four rmtB-positive E. coli showed 30 different PFGE types.

CONCLUSIONS: The rmtB gene was detected on conjugative plasmids of porcine E. coli and E. cloacae isolates. Both horizontal gene transfer and clonal spread were responsible for the dissemination of the rmtB gene. The emergence of 16S rRNA methylases in Enterobacteriaceae isolates is described for the first time in China. This is also the first report of rmtB-positive Enterobacteriaceae among healthy food-producing animals.

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