In the 1980s, gram-negative pathogens appeared to have been beaten by oxyimino-cephalosporins, carbapenems, and fluoroquinolones. Yet these pathogens have fought back, aided by their membrane organization, which promotes the exclusion and efflux of antibiotics, and by a remarkable propensity to recruit, transfer, and modify the expression of resistance genes, including those for extended-spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs), carbapenemases, aminoglycoside-blocking 16S rRNA methylases, and even a quinolone-modifying variant of an aminoglycoside-modifying enzyme. Gram-negative isolates--both fermenters and non-fermenters--susceptible only to colistin and, more variably, fosfomycin and tigecycline, are encountered with increasing frequency, including in Korea. Some ESBLs and carbapenemases have become associated with strains that have great epidemic potential, spreading across countries and continents; examples include Escherichia coli sequence type (ST)131 with CTX-M-15 ESBL and Klebsiella pneumoniae ST258 with KPC carbapenemases. Both of these high-risk lineages have reached Korea. In other cases, notably New Delhi Metallo carbapenemase, the relevant gene is carried by promiscuous plasmids that readily transfer among strains and species. Unless antibiotic stewardship is reinforced, microbiological diagnosis accelerated, and antibiotic development reinvigorated, there is a real prospect that the antibiotic revolution of the 20th century will crumble.
Keywords: Acinetobacter; Carbapenemase; Enterobacteriaceae; Pseudomonas; β-lactamase.