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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003 May;21(5):414-9.

Mutations causing in vitro resistance to azithromycin in Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

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Gonorrhea Research Branch, Division of AIDS, STD and TB Laboratory Research, NCID, Mailstop C-13, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


In 1999, a cluster of gonococcal isolates exhibiting high Minimal Inhibitory Concentrations (MICs), to azithromycin (2.0-4.0 mg/l) were identified in Kansas City, MO. Isolates were characterized by auxotype/serovar class, lipoprotein (Lip) subtyping and sequencing of the mtrR gene, which has been implicated in decreased azithromycin susceptibility in the gonococcus. Isolates were Pro/IB-3 and contained the 17c Lip subtype. Molecular characterization of the mtrR gene revealed a 153 base pair insertion sequence located between the mtrR/mtrC promoter and the mtrC gene. Some isolates also contained a frame shift within the mtrR gene. Transformation of these mutations into an azithromycin-sensitive recipient strain resulted in transformants with MICs as high as 2.0 mg/l and inactivation of the mtrD gene reduced azithromycin MICs 270-fold. These results demonstrated that the mtr mutations were responsible for the increased MICs in these isolates.

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