Carbapenemases: Transforming Acinetobacter baumannii into a Yet More Dangerous Menace

Biomolecules. 2020 May 6;10(5):720. doi: 10.3390/biom10050720.


Acinetobacter baumannii is a common cause of serious nosocomial infections. Although community-acquired infections are observed, the vast majority occur in people with preexisting comorbidities. A. baumannii emerged as a problematic pathogen in the 1980s when an increase in virulence, difficulty in treatment due to drug resistance, and opportunities for infection turned it into one of the most important threats to human health. Some of the clinical manifestations of A. baumannii nosocomial infection are pneumonia; bloodstream infections; lower respiratory tract, urinary tract, and wound infections; burn infections; skin and soft tissue infections (including necrotizing fasciitis); meningitis; osteomyelitis; and endocarditis. A. baumannii has an extraordinary genetic plasticity that results in a high capacity to acquire antimicrobial resistance traits. In particular, acquisition of resistance to carbapenems, which are among the antimicrobials of last resort for treatment of multidrug infections, is increasing among A. baumannii strains compounding the problem of nosocomial infections caused by this pathogen. It is not uncommon to find multidrug-resistant (MDR, resistance to at least three classes of antimicrobials), extensively drug-resistant (XDR, MDR plus resistance to carbapenems), and pan-drug-resistant (PDR, XDR plus resistance to polymyxins) nosocomial isolates that are hard to treat with the currently available drugs. In this article we review the acquired resistance to carbapenems by A. baumannii. We describe the enzymes within the OXA, NDM, VIM, IMP, and KPC groups of carbapenemases and the coding genes found in A. baumannii clinical isolates.

Keywords: Acinetobacter; ESKAPE; antibiotic resistance; plasmid; β-lactam; β-lactamase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acinetobacter baumannii / drug effects
  • Acinetobacter baumannii / enzymology
  • Acinetobacter baumannii / genetics*
  • Acinetobacter baumannii / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Carbapenems / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics*
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carbapenems
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • beta-Lactamases
  • carbapenemase