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Convergence of plasmid architectures drives emergence of multi-drug resistance in a clonally diverse Escherichia coli population from a veterinary clinical care setting

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-14
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Early online date22 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


The purpose of this study was to determine the plasmid architecture and context of resistance genes in multi-drug resistant (MDR) Escherichia coli strains isolated from urinary tract infections in dogs. Illumina and single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing were applied to assemble the complete genomes of E. coli strains associated with clinical urinary tract infections, which were either phenotypically MDR or drug susceptible. This revealed that multiple distinct families of plasmids were associated with building an MDR phenotype. Plasmid-mediated AmpC (CMY-2) beta-lactamase resistance was associated with a clonal group of IncI1 plasmids that has remained stable in isolates collected up to a decade apart. Other plasmids, in particular those with an IncF replicon type, contained other resistance gene markers, so that the emergence of these MDR strains was driven by the accumulation of multiple plasmids, up to 5 replicons in specific cases. This study indicates that vulnerable patients, often with complex clinical histories provide a setting leading to the emergence of MDR E. coli strains in clonally distinct commensal backgrounds. While it is known that horizontally-transferred resistance supplements uropathogenic strains of E. coli such as ST131, our study demonstrates that the selection of an MDR phenotype in commensal E. coli strains can result in opportunistic infections in vulnerable patient populations. These strains provide a reservoir for the onward transfer of resistance alleles into more typically pathogenic strains and provide opportunities for the coalition of resistance and virulence determinants on plasmids as evidenced by the IncF replicons characterised in this study.

    Research areas

  • IncI1, IncF, Unrinary tract infection, Dog, Beta-lactamase, blaCMY-2

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