Chromosome-mediated OXA-48 carbapenemase in highly virulent Escherichia coli

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Bacteria multiresistant to antibiotics are widely supposed to be weakly virulent. However, the virulence traits of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae have not been investigated. In this work, we investigated the virulence and resistance mechanism of an extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) strain (LEB15) that exhibited decreased susceptibility to carbapenems.


The MICs were determined by a microdilution method. The β-lactamase-encoding gene was identified by PCR and sequencing, and the genetic environment was analysed by PFGE and PCR mapping. The genetic background was investigated by multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Virulence-factor-encoding genes and pathogenic islands (PAIs) were detected by multiplex PCR. Virulence was assessed in a mouse sepsis model.


Strain LEB15 produced a chromosomal OXA-48 carbapenemase. The complete blaOXA-48-encoding Tn1999.2 transposon was inserted in the LEB15 chromosome. The strain belonged to an MLST cluster of emerging ExPEC strains (ST-127/ST-22). It had a high pathogenic score and eight PAIs (I536, II536, III536, IV536, VI536, ICFT073, IICFT073 and IIJ96) and induced an unusually high lethality in the mouse sepsis model.


Strain LEB15 combines both an atypical broad accumulation of virulence factors, which confers a strong killer phenotype, and a decrease in susceptibility to carbapenems following the chromosomal acquisition of blaOXA-48. This association of virulence and carbapenemase in E. coli strains might pose major problems in the future for E. coli infection management.

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