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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2003 Jul;47(7):2242-8.

Plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance in clinical isolates of Escherichia coli from Shanghai, China.

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  • 1Institute of Antibiotics, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, China.


Although quinolone resistance usually results from chromosomal mutations, recent studies indicate that quinolone resistance can also be plasmid mediated. The gene responsible, qnr, is distinct from the known quinolone resistance genes and in previous studies seemed to be restricted to Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli isolates from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where this resistance was discovered. In Shanghai, the frequency of ciprofloxacin resistance in E. coli has exceeded 50% since 1993. Seventy-eight unique ciprofloxacin-resistant clinical isolates of E. coli from Shanghai hospitals were screened for the qnr gene by colony blotting and Southern hybridization of plasmid DNA. Conjugation experiments were done with azide-resistant E. coli J53 as a recipient with selection for plasmid-encoded antimicrobial resistance (chloramphenicol, gentamicin, or tetracycline) and azide counterselection. qnr genes were sequenced, and the structure of the plasmid DNA adjacent to qnr was analyzed by primer walking with a sequential series of outward-facing sequencing primers with plasmid DNA templates purified from transconjugants. Six (7.7%) of 78 strains gave a reproducible hybridization signal with a qnr gene probe on colony blots and yielded strong signals on plasmid DNA preparations. Quinolone resistance was transferred from all six probe-positive strains. Transconjugants had 16- to 250-fold increases in the MICs of ciprofloxacin relative to that of the recipient. All six strains contained qnr with a nucleotide sequence identical to that originally reported, except for a single nucleotide change (CTA-->CTG at position 537) encoding the same amino acid. qnr was located in complex In4 family class 1 integrons. Two completely sequenced integrons were designated In36 and In37. Transferable plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance associated with qnr is thus prevalent in quinolone-resistant clinical strains of E. coli from Shanghai and may contribute to the rapid increase in bacterial resistance to quinolones in China.

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