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Int J Infect Dis. 2008 May;12(3):256-64. Epub 2007 Nov 5.

Prevalent phenotypes and antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae at an Indian tertiary care hospital: plasmid-mediated cefoxitin resistance.

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Department of Microbiology, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 202002, Uttar Pradesh, India.



The beta-lactam antibiotics, in combination with aminoglycosides, are among the most widely prescribed antibiotics. However, because of extensive and unnecessary use, resistance to these drugs continues to increase. In recent years, resistance in the Indian bacterial population has increased markedly, the majority showing complex mechanisms. Due to increased transcontinental movement of the human population, it would be wise to know the prevalence and resistance complexity of these strains, well in advance, in order to formulate a policy for empirical therapy.


One hundred and eighty-one isolates of Escherichia coli and 61 isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae obtained from 2655 non-repeat samples of pus (912) and urine (1743) were studied, and their resistance rates and patterns were noted. The isolates were analyzed for prevalent aminoglycoside and cephalosporin resistance phenotypes and for the presence of extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) and AmpC enzymes by spot-inoculation and modified three-dimensional tests developed in our laboratory. Fourteen isolates of E. coli and six of K. pneumoniae, resistant to all of the antibiotics tested, were selected for plasmid screening, curing, and transconjugation experiments, and for comparative evaluation of the double disk synergy test (DDST) and modified three-dimensional test (TDT) for detection of beta-lactamases.


Urinary E. coli isolates showed maximum susceptibility to amikacin (57.1%), followed by tobramycin (38.5%) and gentamicin (31.9%). Eighteen (19.8%) isolates were susceptible to cefotaxime, whereas 11 (12.1%) were susceptible to ceftriaxone. The K. pneumoniae isolates from urine samples showed maximum susceptibility to tobramycin (63.6%) followed by amikacin (54.5%). Of the K. pneumoniae isolates, 31.8% were susceptible to cefotaxime and 13.6% were susceptible to ceftriaxone. A more or less similar trend of antibiotic susceptibility was noted in E. coli and K. pneumoniae isolates from pus samples. Twenty-six (14.4%) E. coli and 15 (24.6%) K. pneumoniae isolates were found to be ESBL-producers by NCCLS-ESBL phenotypic confirmatory test. Eighteen (9.9%) E. coli and 19 (31.1%) K. pneumoniae isolates were found to be AmpC enzyme-producers by our modified TDT. The simultaneous occurrence of ESBL and AmpC enzymes was noted in 7.7% and 9.8% isolates of E. coli and K. pneumoniae, respectively.


The prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacterial isolates is quite high in our bacterial population. On comparative evaluation of DDST and TDT in resistant isolates, TDT was found to be the better method, detecting ESBLs in 80% of isolates compared to 15% with DDST. A 19.9-kb plasmid was consistently present in all the screened isolates of E. coli and K. pneumoniae, and was inferred to encode cefoxitin and tetracycline resistance based on curing and transconjugation experiments.

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