Objectives: Linezolid resistance in rare isolates of Staphylococcus aureus has been associated with G2576T mutations in domain V of the 23S rRNA gene. We report the analysis of a clinical S. aureus isolate that developed linezolid resistance (MIC of linezolid of 12 mg/L) after a 25 day course of the drug. Sequencing identified G2576T mutations in four of the five copies of the 23S rRNA gene.
Methods: To examine the stability of this resistance, we serially passaged this original isolate 60 times over a 75 day period on antimicrobial-free medium.
Results: After 30 passages, the MIC of linezolid had decreased to 8 mg/L and only two of the five copies of the 23S rRNA gene contained the G2576T mutation. After 60 passages, the MIC of linezolid fell to 2 mg/L and only one of the five 23S rRNA gene copies contained the mutation. The original and two passaged staphylococci were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.
Conclusions: In the absence of antibiotic pressure, linezolid resistance was unstable in a clinical isolate that did not have all copies of the 23S rRNA gene mutated, although a single copy of mutant rDNA was maintained. Gene conversion was probably the mechanism for this reversion, using the wild-type 23S rRNA gene sequences to replace the G2576T mutation by homologous recombination.