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Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2003 Aug;16(4):315-25.

Multi-resistant Gram-negative bacilli: from epidemics to endemics.

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Department of Microbiology, Ramón y Cajal University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.



Infections due to multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacilli represent a worrying situation for the management of hospitalized patients. In addition, these bacteria are increasingly involved in epidemics throughout the world. This review focuses on recent data that may help to understand the emergence and dissemination of multi-drug resistant bacilli and the current trend from epidemic to endemic situations.


Well-established clones enhance their resistance phenotype by the acquisition of new resistant genes, via gene capture genetic units (plasmids, transposons or integrons), thus facilitating the co-selective process under different antimicrobial selective pressures and therefore the long-term persistence of organisms in selective environments. Not only resistant bacterial clones are selected, but also their genetic structures carrying resistance genes. Therefore, current epidemiology of multi-drug resistant bacilli is not only focused on bacterial clones but also on any kind of resistance gene capture units. In this scenario a multiclonal population structure of bacterial organisms corresponds to a collection of different strains sharing resistance genes carried by horizontally transferred genetic structures. As different strains tend to prefer different environments, this concept helps understand why the epidemiology of multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacilli is moving from epidemics to endemics.


The emergence and spread of multi-drug resistant bacilli in the nosocomial setting should be understood in terms of a complex interplay of bacterial clonality, resistance genes and genetic structures promoting rapid dissemination of antimicrobial resistance. Intervention strategies in the forthcoming scenario should identify existing epidemic and/or endemic situations involving clonal organisms or resistance genes carried by epidemic gene capture units.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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