Low-Virulence Citrobacter Species Encode Resistance to Multiple Antimicrobials
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Citrobacter spp. are gram-negative commensal bacteria that infrequently cause serious nosocomial infections in compromised hosts. They are often resistant to cephalosporins due to overexpression of their chromosomal beta-lactamase. During a recent study of multidrug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (MDRE) in solid-organ transplant patients, we found that almost half of patients colonized with MDRE carried one or more cefpodoxime-resistant Citrobacter freundii, Citrobacter braakii, or Citrobacter amalonaticus strains. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis showed that 36 unique strains of Citrobacter were present among 32 patients. Genetic and phenotypic analysis of the resistance mechanisms of these bacteria showed that the extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) SHV-5 or SHV-12 was encoded by 8 strains (26%) and expressed by 7 strains (19%). A number of strains were resistant to other drug classes, including aminoglycosides (28%), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (31%), and fluoroquinolones (8%). PCR and DNA analysis of these multiresistant strains revealed the presence of class I integrons, including the first integrons reported for C. braakii and C. amalonaticus. The integrons encoded aminoglycoside resistance, trimethoprim resistance, or both. Despite the prevalence of MDR Citrobacter spp. in our solid-organ transplant patients, only a single infection with a colonizing strain was recorded over 18 months. Low-virulence Citrobacter spp., which can persist in the host for long periods, could influence pathogen evolution by accumulation of genes encoding resistance to multiple antimicrobial classes.
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