Phenotypical and molecular assessment of the virulence potential of KPC-3-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae ST392 clinical isolates

Danilo D'Apolito, Fabio Arena, Viola Conte, Lucia Henrici De Angelis, Giuseppina Di Mento, Anna Paola Carreca, Nicola Cuscino, Giovanna Russelli, Gioacchin Iannolo, Floriana Barbera, Salvatore Pasqua, Francesco Monaco, Francesca Cardinale, Gian Maria Rossolini, Pier Giulio Conaldi, Bruno Douradinha

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Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram-negative bacterium of clinical importance, due to its resistance to several antibiotic classes. We have identified 4 clinical isolates of K. pneumoniae sequence type (ST) 392 KPC-3-producing strains from patients at the Istituto Mediterraneo per i Trapianti e Terapie ad Alta Specializzazione (IRCCS-ISMETT), a Southern Italian transplantation health facility, during a routine surveillance for carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales from in-house clinical samples. Since those were among, to the best of our knowledge, the first KPC-producing K. pneumoniae ST392 isolated in Europe, we assessed their virulence potential, to understand if this particular ST can become an endemic clinical threat. ST392 isolates were investigated to assess their virulence potential, namely resistance to human sera, formation of abiotic biofilms, adhesion to biotic surfaces, exopolysaccharide production and in vivo pathogenesis in the wax moth Galleria mellonella animal model. ST392-belonging strains were highly resistant to human sera. These strains also have a high capacity to form abiotic biofilms and high levels of adhesion to the human epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma HT-29 cell line. An increase of transcriptional levels of genes involved in serum resistance (aroE and traT) and adhesion (pgaA) was observed when compared with the Klebsiella quasipneumoniae subsp. similipneumoniae strain ATCC 700603 reference strain. Infection of G. mellonella larvae with ST392 clinical isolates showed that the latter were not highly pathogenic in this model. Together, our results indicate that ST392 isolates have the potential to become a strain of clinical relevance, especially in health settings where patients are immunosuppressed, e.g., transplant recipients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126551
JournalMicrobiological Research
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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