WGS of commensal Neisseria reveals acquisition of a new ribosomal protection protein (MsrD) as a possible explanation for high level azithromycin resistance in Belgium

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Abstract

In this study, we characterized all oropharyngeal and anorectal isolates of Neisseria spp. in a cohort of men who have sex with men. This resulted in a panel of pathogenic Neisseria (N. gonorrhoeae [n = 5] and N. meningitidis [n = 5]) and nonpathogenic Neisseria (N. subflava [n = 11], N. mucosa [n = 3] and N. oralis [n = 2]). A high proportion of strains in this panel were resistant to azithromycin (18/26) and ceftriaxone (3/26). Whole genome sequencing (WGS) of these strains identified numerous mutations that are known to confer reduced susceptibility to azithromycin and ceftriaxone in N. gonorrhoeae. The presence or absence of these known mutations did not explain the high level resistance to azithromycin (>256 mg/L) in the nonpathogenic isolates (8/16). After screening for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes, we found a ribosomal protection protein, Msr(D), in these highly azithromycin resistant nonpathogenic strains. The complete integration site originated from Streptococcus pneumoniae and is associated with high level resistance to azithromycin in many other bacterial species. This novel AMR resistance mechanism to azithromycin in nonpathogenic Neisseria could be a public health concern if it were to be transmitted to pathogenic Neisseria. This study demonstrates the utility of WGS-based surveillance of nonpathogenic Neisseria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number384
JournalPathogens
Volume10
Issue number3
Number of pages14
ISSN2076-0817
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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