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Tracking of antibiotic resistance transfer and rapid plasmid evolution in a hospital setting by Nanopore sequencing

By Silke Peter, Mattia Bosio, Caspar Gross, Daniela Bezdan, Javier Gutierrez, Philipp Oberhettinger, Jan Liese, Wichard Vogel, Daniela Doerfel, Lennard Berger, Matthias Marschal, Matthias Willmann, Ivo Gut, Marta Gut, Ingo Autenrieth, Stephan Ossowski

Posted 17 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/639609

Background: Infection of patients with multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria often leave very limited or no treatment options. The transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARG) carrying plasmids between bacterial species by horizontal gene transfer represents an important mode of expansion of ARGs. Here, we evaluated the application of Nanopore sequencing technology in a hospital setting for monitoring the transfer and rapid evolution of antibiotic resistance plasmids within and across multiple species. Results: In 2009 we experienced an outbreak with an extensively multidrug resistant P. aeruginosa harboring the carbapenemase enzyme blaIMP-8, and in 2012 the first Citrobacter freundii and Citrobacter werkmanii harboring the same enzyme were detected. Using Nanopore and Illumina sequencing we conducted a comparative analysis of all blaIMP-8 bacteria isolated in our hospital over a 6-year period (n = 54). We developed the computational platforms pathoLogic and plasmIDent for Nanopore-based characterization of clinical isolates and monitoring of ARG transfer, comprising de-novo assembly of genomes and plasmids, polishing, QC, plasmid circularization, ARG annotation, comparative genome analysis of multiple isolates and visualization of results. Using plasmIDent we identified a 40 kb plasmid carrying blaIMP-8 in P. aeruginosa and C. freundii, verifying that plasmid transfer had occurred. Within C. freundii the plasmid underwent further evolution and plasmid fusion, resulting in a 164 kb mega-plasmid, which was transferred to C. werkmanii. Moreover, multiple rearrangements of the multidrug resistance gene cassette were detected in P. aeruginosa, including deletions and translocations of complete ARGs. Conclusion: Plasmid transfer, plasmid fusion and rearrangement of the multidrug resistance gene cassette mediated the rapid evolution of opportunistic pathogens in our hospital. We demonstrated the feasibility of tracking plasmid evolution dynamics and ARG transfer in clinical settings in a timely manner. The approach will allow for successful countermeasures to contain not only clonal, but also plasmid mediated outbreaks.

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