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Rates of resistance to macrolide antibiotics in Streptococcus pneumoniae are rising around the world due to the spread of mobile genetic elements harboring mef(E) and erm(B) genes and post-vaccine clonal expansion of strains that carry them.
Characterization of 592 clinical isolates collected in Arizona over a 10 year period shows 23.6% are macrolide resistant. The largest portion of the macrolide-resistant population, 52%, is dual mef(E)/erm(B)-positive. All dual-positive isolates are multidrug-resistant clonal lineages of Taiwan19F-14, mostly multilocus sequence type 320, carrying the recently described transposon Tn2010. The remainder of the macrolide resistant S. pneumoniae collection includes 31% mef(E)-positive, and 9% erm(B)-positive strains.
The dual-positive, multidrug-resistant S. pneumoniae clones have likely expanded by switching to non-vaccine serotypes after the heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine release, and their success limits therapy options. This upsurge could have a considerable clinical impact in Arizona.