Genomic epidemiology of a complex, multi-species plasmid-borne blaKPC carbapenemase outbreak in Enterobacterales in the UK, 2009-2014
Stoesser N., Phan HTT., Seale AC., Aiken Z., Thomas S., Smith M., Wyllie D., George R., Sebra R., Mathers AJ., Vaughan A., Peto TEA., Ellington MJ., Hopkins KL., Crook DW., Orlek A., Welfare W., Cawthorne J., Lenney C., Dodgson A., Woodford N., Walker AS.
ABSTRACTCarbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales is a public health threat. Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (encoded by alleles of the blaKPC family) is one of the commonest transmissible carbapenem resistance mechanisms worldwide. The dissemination of blaKPC has historically been associated with distinct K. pneumoniae lineages (clonal group 258 [CG258]), a particular plasmid family (pKpQIL), and a composite transposon (Tn4401). In the UK, blaKPC has caused a large-scale, persistent outbreak focused on hospitals in North-West England. This outbreak has evolved to be polyclonal and poly-species, but the genetic mechanisms underpinning this evolution have not been elucidated in detail; this study used short-read whole genome sequencing of 604 blaKPC-positive isolates (Illumina) and long-read assembly (PacBio)/polishing (Illumina) of 21 isolates for characterisation. We observed the dissemination of blaKPC (predominantly blaKPC-2; 573/604 [95%] isolates) across eight species and more than 100 known sequence types. Although there was some variation at the transposon level (mostly Tn4401a, 584/604 (97%) isolates; predominantly with ATTGA-ATTGA target site duplications, 465/604 [77%] isolates), blaKPC spread appears to have been supported by highly fluid, modular exchange of larger genetic segments amongst plasmid populations dominated by IncFIB (580/604 isolates), IncFII (545/604 isolates) and IncR replicons (252/604 isolates). The subset of reconstructed plasmid sequences also highlighted modular exchange amongst non-blaKPC and blaKPC plasmids, and the common presence of multiple replicons within blaKPC plasmid structures (>60%). The substantial genomic plasticity observed has important implications for our understanding of the epidemiology of transmissible carbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales, for the implementation of adequate surveillance approaches, and for control.IMPORTANCEAntimicrobial resistance is a major threat to the management of infections, and resistance to carbapenems, one of the “last line” antibiotics available for managing drug-resistant infections, is a significant problem. This study used large-scale whole genome sequencing over a five-year period in the UK to highlight the complexity of genetic structures facilitating the spread of an important carbapenem resistance gene (blaKPC) amongst a number of bacterial species that cause disease in humans. In contrast to a recent pan-European study from 2012-2013(1), which demonstrated the major role of spread of clonal blaKPC-Klebsiella pneumoniae lineages in continental Europe, our study highlights the substantial plasticity in genetic mechanisms underpinning the dissemination of blaKPC. This genetic flux has important implications for: the surveillance of drug resistance (i.e. making surveillance more difficult); detection of outbreaks and tracking hospital transmission; generalizability of surveillance findings over time and for different regions; and for the implementation and evaluation of control interventions.