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author:("cottrell, Jennifer L.")
1.  Functional genomics to identify the factors contributing to successful persistence and global spread of an antibiotic resistance plasmid 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:168.
The spread of bacterial plasmids is an increasing global problem contributing to the widespread dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes including β-lactamases. Our understanding of the details of the biological mechanisms by which these natural plasmids are able to persist in bacterial populations and are able to establish themselves in new hosts via conjugative transfer is very poor. We recently identified and sequenced a globally successful plasmid, pCT, conferring β-lactam resistance.
Here, we investigated six plasmid encoded factors (tra and pil loci; rci shufflon recombinase, a putative sigma factor, a putative parB partitioning gene and a pndACB toxin-antitoxin system) hypothesised to contribute to the ‘evolutionary success’ of plasmid pCT. Using a functional genomics approach, the role of these loci was investigated by systematically inactivating each region and examining the impact on plasmid persistence, conjugation and bacterial host biology. While the tra locus was found to be essential for all pCT conjugative transfer, the second conjugation (pil) locus was found to increase conjugation frequencies in liquid media to particular bacterial host recipients (determined in part by the rci shufflon recombinase). Inactivation of the pCT pndACB system and parB did not reduce the stability of this plasmid.
Our findings suggest the success of pCT may be due to a combination of factors including plasmid stability within a range of bacterial hosts, a lack of a fitness burden and efficient transfer rates to new bacterial hosts rather than the presence of a particular gene or phenotype transferred to the host. The methodology used in our study could be applied to other ‘successful’ globally distributed plasmids to discover the role of currently unknown plasmid backbone genes or to investigate other factors which allow these elements to persist and spread.
PMCID: PMC4083329  PMID: 24961279
Beta-lactam; ESBL; Mobile genetic element; Plasmid; Recombination
2.  Effects of Ceftiofur and Chlortetracycline Treatment Strategies on Antimicrobial Susceptibility and on tet(A), tet(B), and blaCMY-2 Resistance Genes among E. coli Isolated from the Feces of Feedlot Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80575.
A randomized controlled field trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of two sets of treatment strategies on ceftiofur and tetracycline resistance in feedlot cattle. The strategies consisted of ceftiofur crystalline-free acid (CCFA) administered to either one or all of the steers within a pen, followed by feeding or not feeding a therapeutic dose of chlortetracycline (CTC). Eighty-eight steers were randomly allocated to eight pens of 11 steers each. Both treatment regimens were randomly assigned to the pens in a two-way full factorial design. Non-type-specific (NTS) E. coli (n = 1,050) were isolated from fecal samples gathered on Days 0, 4, 12, and 26. Antimicrobial susceptibility profiles were determined using a microbroth dilution technique. PCR was used to detect tet(A), tet(B), and blaCMY-2 genes within each isolate. Chlortetracycline administration greatly exacerbated the already increased levels of both phenotypic and genotypic ceftiofur resistance conferred by prior CCFA treatment (P<0.05). The four treatment regimens also influenced the phenotypic multidrug resistance count of NTS E. coli populations. Chlortetracycline treatment alone was associated with an increased probability of selecting isolates that harbored tet(B) versus tet(A) (P<0.05); meanwhile, there was an inverse association between finding tet(A) versus tet(B) genes for any given regimen (P<0.05). The presence of a tet(A) gene was associated with an isolate exhibiting reduced phenotypic susceptibility to a higher median number of antimicrobials (n = 289, median = 6; 95% CI = 4–8) compared with the tet(B) gene (n = 208, median = 3; 95% CI = 3–4). Results indicate that CTC can exacerbate ceftiofur resistance following CCFA therapy and therefore should be avoided, especially when considering their use in sequence. Further studies are required to establish the animal-level effects of co-housing antimicrobial-treated and non-treated animals together.
PMCID: PMC3834275  PMID: 24260423
4.  Persistence of Transferable Extended-Spectrum-β-Lactamase Resistance in the Absence of Antibiotic Pressure 
The treatment of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria is one of the great challenges faced by clinicians in the 21st century. Antibiotic resistance genes are often transferred between bacteria by mobile genetic vectors called plasmids. It is commonly believed that removal of antibiotic pressure will reduce the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to the perception that carriage of resistance imposes a fitness cost on the bacterium. This study investigated the ability of the plasmid pCT, a globally distributed plasmid that carries an extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL) resistance gene (blaCTX-M-14), to persist and disseminate in the absence of antibiotic pressure. We investigated key attributes in plasmid success, including conjugation frequencies, bacterial-host growth rates, ability to cause infection, and impact on the fitness of host strains. We also determined the contribution of the blaCTX-M-14 gene itself to the biology of the plasmid and host bacterium. Carriage of pCT was found to impose no detectable fitness cost on various bacterial hosts. An absence of antibiotic pressure and inactivation of the antibiotic resistance gene also had no effect on plasmid persistence, conjugation frequency, or bacterial-host biology. In conclusion, plasmids such as pCT have evolved to impose little impact on host strains. Therefore, the persistence of antibiotic resistance genes and their vectors is to be expected in the absence of antibiotic selective pressure regardless of antibiotic stewardship. Other means to reduce plasmid stability are needed to prevent the persistence of these vectors and the antibiotic resistance genes they carry.
PMCID: PMC3421869  PMID: 22710119
5.  Dissemination of pCT-Like IncK Plasmids Harboring CTX-M-14 Extended-Spectrum β-Lactamase among Clinical Escherichia coli Isolates in the United Kingdom 
IncK plasmids encoding CTX-M-14 extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) and highly related to plasmid pCT were detected in 13 of 67 (19%) human clinical isolates of Escherichia coli with a group 9 CTX-M-type ESBL from the United Kingdom and in 2 quality assurance isolates. None of these E. coli strains was related to the cattle strain from which pCT was originally characterized.
PMCID: PMC3370816  PMID: 22450980
6.  Complete Sequence and Molecular Epidemiology of IncK Epidemic Plasmid Encoding blaCTX-M-14 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2011;17(4):645-652.
This plasmid is disseminated worldwide in Escherichia coli isolated from humans and animals.
Antimicrobial drug resistance is a global challenge for the 21st century with the emergence of resistant bacterial strains worldwide. Transferable resistance to β-lactam antimicrobial drugs, mediated by production of extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs), is of particular concern. In 2004, an ESBL-carrying IncK plasmid (pCT) was isolated from cattle in the United Kingdom. The sequence was a 93,629-bp plasmid encoding a single antimicrobial drug resistance gene, blaCTX-M-14. From this information, PCRs identifying novel features of pCT were designed and applied to isolates from several countries, showing that the plasmid has disseminated worldwide in bacteria from humans and animals. Complete DNA sequences can be used as a platform to develop rapid epidemiologic tools to identify and trace the spread of plasmids in clinically relevant pathogens, thus facilitating a better understanding of their distribution and ability to transfer between bacteria of humans and animals.
PMCID: PMC3377399  PMID: 21470454
Bacteria; Escherichia coli; antimicrobial drug resistance; extended-spectrum beta-lactamase; CTX-M; plasmid; epidemiology; research
7.  RamA, a Member of the AraC/XylS Family, Influences Both Virulence and Efflux in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(6):1607-1616.
The transcriptomes of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium SL1344 lacking a functional ramA or ramR or with plasmid-mediated high-level overexpression of ramA were compared to those of the wild-type parental strain. Inactivation of ramA led to increased expression of 14 SPI-1 genes and decreased expression of three SPI-2 genes, and it altered expression of ribosomal biosynthetic genes and several amino acid biosynthetic pathways. Furthermore, disruption of ramA led to decreased survival within RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages and attenuation within the BALB/c ByJ mouse model. Highly overexpressed ramA led to increased expression of genes encoding multidrug resistance (MDR) efflux pumps, including acrAB, acrEF, and tolC. Decreased expression of 34 Salmonella pathogenicity island (SPI) 1 and 2 genes, decreased SipC production, decreased adhesion to and survival within macrophages, and decreased colonization of Caenorhabditis elegans were also seen. Disruption of ramR led to the increased expression of ramA, acrAB, and tolC, but not to the same level as when ramA was overexpressed on a plasmid. Inactivation of ramR had a more limited effect on pathogenicity gene expression. In silico analysis of a suggested RamA-binding consensus sequence identified target genes, including ramR, acrA, tolC, sipABC, and ssrA. This study demonstrates that the regulation of a mechanism of MDR and expression of virulence genes show considerable overlap, and we postulate that such a mechanism is dependent on transcriptional activator concentration and promoter sensitivity. However, we have no evidence to support the hypothesis that increased MDR via RamA regulation of AcrAB-TolC gives rise to a hypervirulent strain.
PMCID: PMC2832520  PMID: 20081028

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