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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2009 Apr;55(3):414-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2009.00538.x. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Serum resistance and biofilm formation in clinical isolates of Acinetobacter baumannii.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS 39216, USA.


Acinetobacter baumannii has few known virulence factors and yet causes a variety of opportunistic infections. Many gram-negative bacteria are directly killed by complement, but we hypothesized that A. baumannii would be resistant to serum killing. A serum bactericidal assay assessed the resistance of seven A. baumannii isolates to serum killing, and C2-deficient serum was used to examine its activation of the alternative pathway. Flow cytometry was utilized to determine whether complement regulator factor H (FH) was bound by A. baumannii, and to assay C3 deposition on cells. A microtiter biofilm assay compared biofilm production among isolates. Of seven isolates, four were serum sensitive and three were serum resistant. The C2-deficient serum demonstrated that A. baumannii can activate the alternative pathway. None of the isolates bound FH. Serum-resistant strains accumulated little C3 when exposed to human serum, while sensitive strains had a high amount of surface C3 deposition. Biofilm production varied extensively among strains. Most serum-resistant isolates formed a substantial amount of biofilm, while sensitive isolates produced negligible amounts of biofilm. Our data indicate that some strains of A. baumannii are resistant to serum killing and produce biofilms and by understanding the resistance mechanisms used by this bacterium, we can further elucidate its complex pathogenicity.

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