2022 journal article
Epidemiology of Plasmid Lineages Mediating the Spread of Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamases among Clinical Escherichia coli
Ed(s): C. Marshall
The prevalence of extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) among clinical isolates of Escherichia coli has been increasing, with this spread driven by ESBL-encoding plasmids. However, the epidemiology of ESBL-disseminating plasmids remains understudied, obscuring the roles of individual plasmid lineages in ESBL spread. To address this, we performed an in-depth genomic investigation of 149 clinical ESBL-like E. coli isolates from a tertiary care hospital. We obtained high-quality assemblies for 446 plasmids, revealing an extensive map of plasmid sharing that crosses time, space, and bacterial sequence type boundaries. Through a sequence-based network, we identified specific plasmid lineages that are responsible for the dissemination of major ESBLs. Notably, we demonstrate that IncF plasmids separate into 2 distinct lineages that are enriched for different ESBLs and occupy distinct host ranges. Our work provides a detailed picture of plasmid-mediated spread of ESBLs, demonstrating the extensive sequence diversity within identified lineages, while highlighting the genetic elements that underlie the persistence of these plasmids within the clinical E. coli population. IMPORTANCE The increasing incidence of nosocomial infections with extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli represents a significant threat to public health, given the limited treatment options available for such infections. The rapid ESBL spread is suggested to be driven by localization of the resistance genes on conjugative plasmids. Here, we identify the contributions of different plasmid lineages in the nosocomial spread of ESBLs. We provide further support for plasmid-mediated spread of ESBLs but demonstrate that some ESBL genes rely on dissemination through plasmids more than the others. We identify key plasmid lineages that are enriched in major ESBL genes and highlight the encoded genetic elements that facilitate the transmission and stable maintenance of these plasmid groups within the clinical E. coli population. Overall, our work provides valuable insight into the dissemination of ESBLs through plasmids, furthering our understating of factors underlying the increased prevalence of these genes in nosocomial settings.