Reduced susceptibility to chlorhexidine among extremely-drug-resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae

L. Naparstek, Y. Carmeli, I. Chmelnitsky, E. Banin, S. Navon-Venezia

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Background: Over the last decade, extremely-drug-resistant (XDR) strains of . Klebsiella pneumoniae have emerged worldwide, mainly as a result of patient-to-patient spread. The predominant clone, sequence type 258 (ST258), is associated with high morbidity and mortality, and is a worldwide threat to public health. It was hypothesized that reduced susceptibility to chlorhexidine, the most widely used hospital disinfectant, may contribute to the endemic nature of this strain. Aim: To characterize and compare the susceptibility of the epidemic . K. pneumoniae clone ST258 and non-epidemic . K. pneumoniae clones to chlorhexidine. Methods: The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of chlorhexidine was determined in 126 XDR . K. pneumoniae clinical isolates using agar dilution. Expression of three different efflux pumps - . cepA, . acrA and . kdeA - was investigated in the absence and presence of chlorhexidine using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Heteroresistance to chlorhexidine was identified using population analysis. Findings: The MIC of chlorhexidine was higher for . K. pneumoniae ST258 (. N = 70) than other . K. pneumoniae sequence types (. N = 56); 99% of ST258 isolates had MICs >32 μg/mL, compared with 52% of other . K. pneumoniae sequence types (. P < 0.0001). Reduced susceptibility to chlorhexidine appeared to be independent of the expression of . cepA, . acrA and . kdeA efflux pumps. Chlorhexidine-resistant subpopulations were observed independent of the bacterial sequence type or the MIC. Conclusions: Reduced susceptibility to chlorhexidine may contribute to the success of XDR . K. pneumoniae as a nosocomial pathogen, and may provide a selective advantage to the international epidemic strain . K. pneumoniae ST258. The heterogeneous nature of chlorhexidine-resistant subpopulations suggests that this phenomenon might not be rendered genetically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chlorhexidine resistance
  • Efflux pumps
  • Extremely drug resistant
  • Heteroresistant subpopulations
  • ST258
  • XDR Klebsiella pneumoniae


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