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J Infect Dis. 2004 Nov 15;190(10):1739-44. Epub 2004 Oct 7.

Virulence characteristics and phylogenetic background of multidrug-resistant and antimicrobial-susceptible clinical isolates of Escherichia coli from across the United States, 2000-2001.

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  • 1Mucosal and Vaccine Research Center, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55417, USA.



Increases in antimicrobial resistance in Escherichia coli have been paralleled by an increasing incidence of E. coli sepsis, suggesting a possible link between resistance and virulence.


All 76 multidrug-resistant (MDR) E. coli isolates (i.e., those resistant to > or =3 antimicrobial agents, including ampicillin, ceftazidime, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, gentamicin, and ciprofloxacin) reported to the Tracking Resistance in the United States Today studies during 2000-2001 and 76 closely matched pansusceptible control isolates were studied. Extended virulence profiles and E. coli phylogenetic group (A, B1, B2, or D) were compared between groups.


The MDR isolates, which represented predominantly non-B2 phylogenetic groups (91%), exhibited significantly reduced molecular virulence, compared with the predominantly group B2-derived control isolates (58%). Only 30% of MDR isolates, compared with 61% of control isolates (P<.001), qualified as extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), and even these isolates exhibited significantly lower virulence scores than did susceptible ExPEC (7.25 vs. 9.0; P=.001). Phylogenetic differences accounted for the apparent virulence differences between MDR and control isolates.


These findings argue against a direct link between virulence traits and antimicrobial resistance in E. coli. Instead, they call into question why non-B2 strains are more commonly MDR, with differential exposure to selection pressure (including in agriculture) as one possible explanation.

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