The emergence and spread of Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) among Enterobacteriaceae presents a major public health threat to the world. Although not as common as in K. pneumoniae, KPC is also found in Escherichia coli strains. Here, we genetically characterized 9 carbapenem-resistant E. coli strains isolated from six hospitals in the United States and completely sequenced their blaKPC-harboring plasmids. The nine strains were isolated from different geographical locations and belonged to 8 different E. coli sequence types. Seven blaKPC-harboring plasmids belonged to four different known incompatibility groups (IncN, -FIA, -FIIK2, and -FIIK1) and ranged in size from ∼16 kb to ∼241 kb. In this analysis, we also identified two plasmids that have novel replicons: (i) pBK28610, which is similar to p34978-3 with an insertion of Tn4401b, and (ii) pBK31611, which does not have an apparent homologue in the GenBank database. Moreover, we report the emergence of a pKP048-like plasmid, pBK34397, in E. coli in the United States. Meanwhile, we also found examples of interspecies spread of blaKPC plasmids, as pBK34592 is identical to pBK30683, isolated from K. pneumoniae. In addition, we discovered examples of acquisition (pBK32602 acquired an ∼46-kb fragment including a novel replication gene, along with Tn4401b and other resistance genes) and/or loss (pKpQIL-Ec has a 14.5-kb deletion compared to pKpQIL-10 and pBK33689) of DNA, demonstrating the plasticity of these plasmids and their rapid evolution in the clinic. Overall, our study shows that the spread of blaKPC-producing E. coli is largely due to horizontal transfer of blaKPC-harboring plasmids and related mobile elements into diverse genetic backgrounds.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases