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Characterization of bla KPC-2 and bla NDM-1 Plasmids of a K. pneumoniae ST11 Outbreak Clone.

Antibiotics 2023 May 19
The most common resistance mechanism to carbapenems is the production of carbapenemases. In 2021, the Pan American Health Organization warned of the emergence and increase in new carbapenemase combinations in Enterobacterales in Latin America. In this study, we characterized four Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates harboring bla KPC and bla NDM from an outbreak during the COVID-19 pandemic in a Brazilian hospital. We assessed their plasmids' transference ability, fitness effects, and relative copy number in different hosts. The K. pneumoniae BHKPC93 and BHKPC104 strains were selected for whole genome sequencing (WGS) based on their pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profile. The WGS revealed that both isolates belong to ST11, and 20 resistance genes were identified in each isolate, including bla KPC-2 and bla NDM-1 . The bla KPC gene was present on a ~56 Kbp IncN plasmid and the bla NDM-1 gene on a ~102 Kbp IncC plasmid, along with five other resistance genes. Although the bla NDM plasmid contained genes for conjugational transfer, only the bla KPC plasmid conjugated to E. coli J53, without apparent fitness effects. The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of meropenem/imipenem against BHKPC93 and BHKPC104 were 128/64 and 256/128 mg/L, respectively. Although the meropenem and imipenem MICs against E. coli J53 transconjugants carrying the bla KPC gene were 2 mg/L, this was a substantial increment in the MIC relative to the original J53 strain. The bla KPC plasmid copy number was higher in K. pneumoniae BHKPC93 and BHKPC104 than in E. coli and higher than that of the bla NDM plasmids. In conclusion, two ST11 K. pneumoniae isolates that were part of a hospital outbreak co-harbored bla KPC-2 and bla NDM-1 . The bla KPC -harboring IncN plasmid has been circulating in this hospital since at least 2015, and its high copy number might have contributed to the conjugative transfer of this particular plasmid to an E. coli host. The observation that the bla KPC -containing plasmid had a lower copy number in this E. coli strain may explain why this plasmid did not confer phenotypic resistance against meropenem and imipenem.

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