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1.  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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00848-12
PMCID: PMC3421869  PMID: 22710119
2.  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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00313-12
PMCID: PMC3370816  PMID: 22450980
3.  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.
doi:10.1128/JB.01517-09
PMCID: PMC2832520  PMID: 20081028

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