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Genetic determinants of resistance to antimicrobial therapeutics are rare in publicly available Clostridioides difficile genome sequences.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the frequencies and clonal distributions of putative genetic determinants of resistance to antimicrobials applied for treatment of Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI), as documented in the genomic record.

METHODS: We scanned 26 557 C. difficile genome sequences publicly available from the EnteroBase platform for plasmids, point mutations and gene truncations previously reported to reduce susceptibility to vancomycin, fidaxomicin or metronidazole, respectively. We measured the antimicrobial susceptibility of 143 selected C. difficile isolates.

RESULTS: The frequency of mutations causing reduced susceptibility to vancomycin and metronidazole, respectively, increased strongly after 2000, peaking at up to 52% of all sequenced C. difficile genomes. However, both mutations declined sharply more recently, reflecting major changes in CDI epidemiology. We detected mutations associated with fidaxomicin resistance in several major genotypes, but found no evidence of international spread of resistant clones. The pCD-METRO plasmid, conferring metronidazole resistance, was detected in a single previously unreported C. difficile isolate, recovered from a hospital patient in Germany in 2008. The pX18-498 plasmid, putatively associated with decreased vancomycin susceptibility, was confined to related, recent isolates from the USA. Phenotype measurements confirmed that most of those genetic features were useful predictors of antibiotic susceptibility, even though ranges of MICs typically overlapped among isolates with and without specific mutations.

CONCLUSIONS: Genomic data suggested that resistance to therapeutic antimicrobial drugs is rare in C. difficile. Public antimicrobial resistance marker databases were not equipped to detect most of the genetic determinants relevant to antibiotic therapy of CDI.

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