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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 12;8(8):e71001. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071001. eCollection 2013.

Clonal dissemination, emergence of mutator lineages and antibiotic resistance evolution in Pseudomonas aeruginosa cystic fibrosis chronic lung infection.

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Servicio de Microbiología y Unidad de Investigación, Hospital Universitario Son Espases, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.


Chronic respiratory infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a major cause of mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF). We investigated the interplay between three key microbiological aspects of these infections: the occurrence of transmissible and persistent strains, the emergence of variants with enhanced mutation rates (mutators) and the evolution of antibiotic resistance. For this purpose, 10 sequential isolates, covering up to an 8-year period, from each of 10 CF patients were studied. As anticipated, resistance significantly accumulated overtime, and occurred more frequently among mutator variants detected in 6 of the patients. Nevertheless, highest resistance was documented for the nonmutator CF epidemic strain LES-1 (ST-146) detected for the first time in Spain. A correlation between resistance profiles and resistance mechanisms evaluated [efflux pump (mexB, mexD, mexF, and mexY) and ampC overexpression and OprD production] was not always obvious and hypersusceptibility to certain antibiotics (such as aztreonam or meropenem) was frequently observed. The analysis of whole genome macrorestriction fragments through Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) revealed that a single genotype (clone FQSE-A) produced persistent infections in 4 of the patients. Multilocus Sequence typing (MLST) identified clone FQSE-A as the CF epidemic clone ST-274, but striking discrepancies between PFGE and MLST profiles were evidenced. While PFGE macrorestriction patterns remained stable, a new sequence type (ST-1089) was detected in two of the patients, differing from ST-274 by only two point mutations in two of the genes, each leading to a nonpreviously described allele. Moreover, detailed genetic analyses revealed that the new ST-1089 is a mutS deficient mutator lineage that evolved from the epidemic strain ST-274, acquired specific resistance mechanisms, and underwent further interpatient spread. Thus, presented results provide the first evidence of interpatient dissemination of mutator lineages and denote their potential for unexpected short-term sequence type evolution, illustrating the complexity of P. aeruginosa population biology in CF.

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