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Reconciling the potentially irreconcilable? Genotypic and phenotypic amoxicillin-clavulanate resistance in Escherichia coli

By Timothy J Davies, Nicole Stoesser, Anna E Sheppard, Manal Abuoun, Philip Fowler, Jeremy Swann, T. Phuong Quan, David Griffiths, Alison Vaughan, Marcus Morgan, Hang TT Phan, Katie J Jeffery, Monique Andersson, Matt J Ellington, Oskar Ekelund, Neil Woodford, Amy J. Mathers, Robert A. Bonomo, Derrick W Crook, Tim EA Peto, Muna F. Anjum, Ann Sarah Walker

Posted 07 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/511402 (published DOI: 10.1128/AAC.02026-19)

Resistance to amoxicillin-clavulanate, a widely used beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitor combination antibiotic, is rising globally, yet susceptibility testing remains challenging. To test whether whole-genome sequencing (WGS) could provide a more reliable assessment of susceptibility than traditional methods, we predicted resistance from WGS for 976 E. coli bloodstream infection isolates from Oxfordshire, UK, comparing against phenotypes from the BD Phoenix (calibrated against EUCAST guidelines). 339/976 (35%) isolates were amoxicillin-clavulanate resistant. Predictions based solely on beta-lactamase presence/absence performed poorly (sensitivity 23% (78/339)) but improved when genetic features associated with penicillinase hyper-production (e.g. promoter mutations, copy number estimates) were considered (sensitivity 82% (277/339); p<0.0001). Most discrepancies occurred in isolates with peri-breakpoint MICs. We investigated two potential causes; the phenotypic reference and the binary resistant/susceptible classification. We performed reference standard, replicated phenotyping in a random stratified subsample of 261/976 (27%) isolates using agar dilution, following both EUCAST and CLSI guidelines, which use different clavulanate concentrations. As well as disagreeing with each other, neither agar dilution phenotype aligned perfectly with genetic features. A random-effects model investigating associations between genetic features and MICs showed that some genetic features had small, variable and additive effects, resulting in variable resistance classification. Using model fixed-effects to predict MICs for the non-agar dilution isolates, predicted MICs were in essential agreement (±1 doubling dilution) with observed (BD Phoenix) MICs for 691/715 (97%) isolates. This suggests amoxicillin-clavulanate resistance in E. coli is quantitative, rather than qualitative, explaining the poorly reproducible binary (resistant/susceptible) phenotypes and suboptimal concordance between different phenotypic methods and with WGS-based predictions.

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