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Population genomic molecular epidemiological study of macrolide resistant Streptococcus pyogenes in Iceland,1995-2016: Identification of a large clonal population with a pbp2x mutation conferring reduced in vitro beta-lactam susceptibility

By Sara B. Southon, Stephen B. Beres, Priyanka Kachroo, Matthew Ojeda Saavedra, Helga Erlendsdóttir, Gunnsteinn Haraldsson, Prasanti Yerramilli, Layne Pruitt, Luchang Zhu, James M. Musser, Karl G. Kristinsson

Posted 13 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.12.090365 (published DOI: 10.1128/JCM.00638-20)

Resistance to macrolide antibiotics is a global concern in the treatment of Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus, GAS) infections. In Iceland, since the detection of the first macrolide-resistant isolate in 1998, three epidemic waves of macrolide-resistant GAS infections have occurred with peaks in 1999, 2004, and 2008. We conducted whole genome sequencing of all 1,575 available GAS macrolide-resistant clinical isolates of all infection types collected at the national reference laboratory in Reykjavik from 1998 to 2016. Among 1,515 erythromycin-resistant isolates, 90.3% were of only three emm types: emm4 (n = 713), emm6 (n = 324), and emm12 (n = 332), with each being predominant in a distinct epidemic peak. The antibiotic efflux pump genes, mef(A) and msr(D), were present on chimeric mobile genetic elements in 99.3% of the macrolide-resistant isolates of these emm types. Of note, in addition to macrolide resistance, virtually all emm12 isolates had a single amino acid substitution in penicillin-binding protein PBP2X that conferred a two-fold increased penicillin G and ampicillin MIC among isolates tested. We conclude that each of the three large epidemic peaks of macrolide-resistant GAS infections occurring in Iceland since 1998 was caused by the emergence and clonal expansion of progenitor strains, with macrolide resistance being conferred predominantly by inducible Mef(A)-Msr(D) drug efflux pumps. The occurrence of emm12 strains with macrolide resistance and decreased beta-lactam susceptibility was unexpected and is of public health concern. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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