Cephalosporin resistance in clinical E. coli isolates is increasing internationally. The increase has been caused by virulent and often multidrug-resistant clones, especially the extended spectrum ß-lactamase (ESBL) producing E. coli clone O25b-ST131.
In Norway, recommended empirical treatment of sepsis consists of gentamicin and penicillin combined, or a broad-spectrum cephalosporin. To investigate if increased gentamicin and cephalosporins resistance rates in our hospital could be caused by specific clones, we conducted a retrospective study on E. coli blood culture isolates from 2011 through 2015. All E. coli isolates non-susceptible to gentamicin and/or third-generation cephalosporins were genotyped using multiple-locus variable-number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) and compared with antibiotic susceptible isolates. The frequency of the most common genes causing ESBL production (blaCTX-M, blaampC) was examined by Real-Time PCR.
A total of 158 cephalosporin and/or gentamicin resistant and 97 control isolates were differentiated into 126 unique MLVA types. Of these, 31% of the isolates belonged to a major MLVA cluster consisting of 41% of the gentamicin resistant and 35% of the cephalosporin resistant isolates. The majority (65/80 isolates) of this MLVA cluster contained MLVA types associated with the E. coli O25b-ST131 clone. Genes encoding CTX-M enzyme phylogroups 1 and 9 occurred in 65% and 19% of cephalosporin resistant isolates, respectively, whereas blaampC-CIT was identified in 3%.
No local E. coli bacteraemia clone was identified. Antibiotic resistance was dispersed over a variety of genotypes. However, association with the international E. coli O25b-ST131 clone was frequent and may be an important driver behind increased resistance rates. Monitoring and preventing dissemination of these resistant clones are important for continued optimal treatment.