Objectives: Polymyxins (i.e., polymyxin B and colistin) are used as a last-line therapy to combat multidrug-resistant (MDR) Klebsiella pneumoniae. Worryingly, polymyxin resistance in K. pneumoniae is increasingly reported worldwide. This study identified the genetic variations responsible for high-level colistin resistance in MDR K. pneumoniae clinical isolates. Methods: Sixteen MDR K. pneumoniae isolates were obtained from stool samples of 8 patients before and after colistin treatment. Their genomes were sequenced on Illumina MiSeq to determine genetic variations. Results: Fifteen of 16 isolates harboured ISKpn26-like element insertion at nucleotide position 75 of mgrB, abolishing its negative regulation on phoPQ; while colistin-susceptible ATH7 contained intact mgrB and phoQ. Interestingly, each of the 7 mgrB-disrupted, colistin-susceptible isolates contained a nonsynonymous substitution in PhoQ (G39S, L239P, N253T or V446G), potentially impairing its function and intergenically suppressing the effect caused by mgrB inactivation. Additionally, three of the 7 corresponding mgrB-disrupted, colistin-resistant isolates harboured a secondary nonsynonymous substitution in PhoQ (N253P, D438H or T439P). Conclusions: This is the first report of phoQ mutations in mgrB-disrupted, colistin-susceptible K. pneumoniae clinical isolates. We also discovered multiple phoQ mutations in mgrB-disrupted, colistin-resistant strains. Our findings highlight the multifaceted molecular mechanisms of colistin resistance in K. pneumoniae.
- Klebsiella pneumoniae