Increased Capsule Thickness and Hypermotility Are Traits of Carbapenem-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii ST3 Strains Causing Fulminant Infection

Nadya Rakovitsky*, Jonathan Lellouche, Debby Ben David, Sammy Frenk, Polet Elmalih, Gabriel Weber, Hadas Kon, David Schwartz, Liat Wolfhart, Elizabeth Temkin, Yehuda Carmeli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Acinetobacter baumannii is a successful nosocomial pathogen, causing severe, life-threatening infections in hospitalized patients, including pneumonia and bloodstream infections. The spread of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) strains is a major health threat worldwide. The successful spread of CRAB is mostly due to its highly plastic genome. Although some virulence factors associated with CRAB have been uncovered, many mechanisms contributing to its success are not fully understood. Methods: Here we describe strains of CRAB that were isolated from fulminant cases in 2 hospitals in Israel. These isolates show a rare hypermucoid (HM) phenotype and were investigated using phenotypic assays, comparative genomics, and an in vivo Galleria mellonella model. Results: The 3 isolates belonged to the ST3 international clonal type and were closely related to each other, as shown by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and phylogenetic analyses. These isolates possessed thickened capsules and a dense filamentous extracellular polysaccharides matrix as shown by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and overexpressed the capsule polysaccharide synthesis pathway-related wzc gene. Conclusions: The HM isolates possessed a unique combination of virulence genes involved in iron metabolism, protein secretion, adherence, and membrane glycosylation. HM strains were more virulent than control strains in 2 G. mellonella infection models. In conclusion, our findings demonstrated several virulence factors, all present in 3 CRAB isolates with rare hypermucoid phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberofab386
JournalOpen Forum Infectious Diseases
Volume8
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • K-locus
  • capsule
  • carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii
  • mucoid phenotype
  • virulence

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