Background: Cefiderocol is a novel siderophore cephalosporin active against MDR Gram-negative bacilli, including MBL-harbouring Enterobacterales. The detection of multiple cefiderocol-resistant blaVIM-carrying Enterobacterales isolates (MIC = 4 mg/L) from a single patient suggested an additional, potentially transferable, resistance determinant as blaVIM typically does not elevate cefiderocol MIC above the resistance threshold.
Methods: Transfer of a mobile genetic element was performed in liquid mating experiments. All donor isolates and transconjugants were characterized by short-read WGS to identify potential resistance determinants. mRNA expression of siderophore receptors was determined by quantitative RT-PCR. Validation was performed by transformation. Antibiotic susceptibility was determined by broth microdilution.
Results: Liquid mating experiments indicated the presence of transferable resistance determinants. Comparative genomic analysis of the clinical isolates and their respective transconjugants revealed the transfer of an accessory fec operon (fecABCDEIR). Transformation of the fec operon-containing vector into a TOP10 Escherichia coli led to an elevation of the cefiderocol MIC by at least 16-fold. Higher expression of fecA as a proxy for the fec operon mRNA expression was associated with phenotypic cefiderocol resistance. Both VIM and the accessory fec operon contribute to the elevation of cefiderocol MIC beyond the resistance threshold. The acquisition of an accessory fec operon via liquid mating confers phenotypic cefiderocol resistance in both E. coli J53 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1, indicating a broad-host-range nature of this mobile resistance determinant.
Conclusions: The emergence of a transferable cefiderocol resistance determinant without prior exposure to the substance is worrisome and should be monitored closely.
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