Clonal Expansion and Emergence of Environmental Multiple-Triazole-Resistant Aspergillus fumigatus Strains Carrying the TR34/L98H Mutations in the cyp51A Gene in India
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Azole resistance is an emerging problem in Aspergillus which impacts the management of aspergillosis. Here in we report the emergence and clonal spread of resistance to triazoles in environmental Aspergillus fumigatus isolates in India. A total of 44 (7%) A. fumigatus isolates from 24 environmental samples were found to be triazole resistant. The isolation rate of resistant A. fumigatus was highest (33%) from soil of tea gardens followed by soil from flower pots of the hospital garden (20%), soil beneath cotton trees (20%), rice paddy fields (12.3%), air samples of hospital wards (7.6%) and from soil admixed with bird droppings (3.8%). These strains showed cross-resistance to voriconazole, posaconazole, itraconazole and to six triazole fungicides used extensively in agriculture. Our analyses identified that all triazole-resistant strains from India shared the same TR(34)/L98H mutation in the cyp51 gene. In contrast to the genetic uniformity of azole-resistant strains the azole-susceptible isolates from patients and environments in India were genetically very diverse. All nine loci were highly polymorphic in populations of azole-susceptible isolates from both clinical and environmental samples. Furthermore, all Indian environmental and clinical azole resistant isolates shared the same multilocus microsatellite genotype not found in any other analyzed samples, either from within India or from the Netherlands, France, Germany or China. Our population genetic analyses suggest that the Indian azole-resistant A. fumigatus genotype was likely an extremely adaptive recombinant progeny derived from a cross between an azole-resistant strain migrated from outside of India and a native azole-susceptible strain from within India, followed by mutation and then rapid dispersal through many parts of India. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure of A. fumigatus to azole fungicides in the environment causes cross-resistance to medical triazoles. The study emphasises the need of continued surveillance of resistance in environmental and clinical A. fumigatus strains.