Moraxella catarrhalis: Clinical significance, antimicrobial susceptibility and BRO beta-lactamases

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Moraxella catarrhalis is an important pathogen of humans. It is a common cause of respiratory infections, particularly otitis media in children and lower respiratory tract infections in the elderly. Colonisation of the upper respiratory tract appears to be associated with infection in many cases, although this association is not well understood. Nosocomial transmission is being increasingly documented and the emergence of this organism as a cause of bacteremia is of concern. The widespread production of a β-lactamase enzyme renders Moraxella catarrhalis resistant to the penicillins. Cephalosporins and β-lactamase inhibitor combinations are effective for treatment of β-lactamase producers, and the organism remains nearly universally susceptible to the macrolides, fluoroquinolones, tetracyclines and the combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. Two major β-lactamase forms, BRO-1 and BRO-2, have been described on the basis of their isoelectric focusing patterns. The BRO-1 enzyme is found in the majority of β-lactamase-producing isolates and confers a higher level of resistance to strains than BRO-2. The BRO enzymes are membrane associated and their production appears to be mediated by chromosomal determinants which are transmissible by an unknown mechanism. The origin of these novel proteins is unknown.

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