The spread of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance has posed a serious threat to public health owing to its effects on the emergence of pandrug-resistant bacteria. In this study, we investigated the prevalence and characteristics of mcr-1-positive Escherichia coli isolated from retail meat samples in Korea. In total, 1,205 E. coli strains were isolated from 3,234 retail meat samples in Korea. All E. coli strains were subjected to antimicrobial susceptibility testing and were examined for the presence of mcr-1 gene. All mcr-1-positive E. coli (n = 10, 0.8%) from retail meat were subjected to pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS). The transferability of mcr-1 gene was determined by conjugation assays. The mcr-1-positive strains exhibited diverse clonal types. Our mcr-1 genes were located in plasmids belonged to the IncI2 (n = 1) and IncX4 (n = 8) types, which were reported to be prevalent in Asia and worldwide, respectively. Most mcr-1 genes from mcr-1-positive strains (9/10) were transferable to the recipient strain and the transfer frequencies ranged from 2.4 × 10-3 to 9.8 × 10-6. Our data suggest that the specific types of plasmid may play an important role in spreading plasmid-mediated colistin resistance in Korea. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the retail meat may be an important tool for disseminating plasmid-mediated colistin resistance.
Keywords: Colistin resistance; IncI2 plasmid; IncX4 plasmid; mcr-1; prevalence; retail meats.