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EBioMedicine. 2019 Aug;46:184-192. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.07.020. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

Population-based inference of aminoglycoside resistance mechanisms in Escherichia coli.

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Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Universität Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Universität Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Bacteriology, Institute Pasteur, Paris, France.



Interpretative reading of antimicrobial susceptibility test (AST) results allows inferring biochemical resistance mechanisms from resistance phenotypes. For aminoglycosides, however, correlations between resistance pathways inferred on the basis of the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) clinical breakpoints and expert rules versus genotypes are generally poor. This study aimed at developing and validating a decision tree based on resistance phenotypes determined by disc diffusion and based on epidemiological cut-offs (ECOFFs) to infer the corresponding resistance mechanisms in Escherichia coli.


Phenotypic antibiotic susceptibility of thirty wild-type and 458 aminoglycoside-resistant E. coli clinical isolates was determined by disc diffusion and the genomes were sequenced. Based on well-defined cut-offs, we developed a phenotype-based algorithm (Aminoglycoside Resistance Mechanism Inference Algorithm - ARMIA) to infer the biochemical mechanisms responsible for the corresponding aminoglycoside resistance phenotypes. The mechanisms inferred from susceptibility to kanamycin, tobramycin and gentamicin were analysed using ARMIA- or EUCAST-based AST interpretation and validated by whole genome sequencing (WGS) of the host bacteria.


ARMIA-based inference of resistance mechanisms and WGS data were congruent in 441/458 isolates (96·3%). In contrast, there was a poor correlation between resistance mechanisms inferred using EUCAST CBPs/expert rules and WGS data (418/488, 85·6%). Based on the assumption that resistance mechanisms can result in therapeutic failure, EUCAST produced 63 (12·9%) very major errors (vME), compared to only 2 (0·4%) vME with ARMIA. When used for detection and identification of resistance mechanisms, ARMIA resolved >95% vMEs generated by EUCAST-based AST interpretation.


This study demonstrates that ECOFF-based analysis of AST data of only four aminoglycosides provides accurate information on the resistance mechanisms in E. coli. Since aminoglycoside resistance mechanisms, despite having in certain cases a minimal effect on the minimal inhibitory concentration, may compromise the bactericidal activity of aminoglycosides, prompt detection of resistance mechanisms is crucial for therapy. Using ARMIA as an interpretative rule set for editing AST results allows for better predictions of in vivo activity of this drug class.

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