Background: Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemases (KPCs) producing bacteria have emerged as a cause of multidrug-resistant nosocomial infections worldwide. KPCs are plasmid-encoded enzymes capable of hydrolysing a broad spectrum of beta-lactams, including carbapenems and monobactams, therefore worryingly limiting antimicrobial treatment options. Analysis of circulating bacterial strains and KPC alleles may help understanding the route of KPC dissemination and therefore help containing the infection.
Methods: KPC-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae dissemination in two 1580- and 300- bed hospitals in Padua, Italy, from initial outbreak in 2009 to late 2011 was analysed. Molecular and clinical epidemiology, including bacterial strains, KPC-encoding plasmid sequences and associated resistance genes, involved hospital wards and relocation of patients were described. Routine antimicrobial susceptibility testing and MIC of carbapenems on clinical isolates were performed. Detection of resistance genes was obtained by PCR and sequencing. MLST, PFGE and ERIC were used for molecular genotyping. Plasmid analysis was obtained by digestion with restriction enzymes and deep sequencing.
Results: KPC-positive clinical samples were isolated from nearly 200 patients. In the initial outbreak intensive care units were almost exclusively involved, while medical, surgical and long-term wards were successively massively concerned. Analysis of KPC alleles, plasmids and bacterial sequence types (STs) indicated that during the initial outbreak KPC-3 in ST258 and KPC-2 in ST147 were each confined in one of the two surveilled hospitals. While KPC-2 dissemination was effectively contained, KPC-3 in ST258 cross-spreading was observed. The simultaneous presence of two carbapenemases, VIM-1 and KPC-2, in the same isolate was also observed in three patients. Total sequencing of plasmid content of two KPC-3 strains showed novel association of resistance plasmids.
Conclusions: The acquired molecular epidemiology demonstrated that 1) both acquisitions from outward sources and patient relocation within the hospitals were responsible for the observed spreading; 2) KPC-3-encoding Klebsiella pneumoniae ST258 prevailed over other strains. In addition, the described massive transfer of KPC-mediated resistance to non-intensive care units may anticipate spreading of resistance to the non-hospitalized population. Therefore, genotypic analysis alongside phenotypic identification of carbapenemase producers, also at the carriage state, is advisable to prevent and contain further carbapenemase resistance dissemination.