Acquired fluoroquinolone resistance genes in corneal isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Fluoroquinolones are widely used as an empirical therapy for pseudomonal ocular infections. Based on increasing reports on acquired fluoroquinolone resistance genes in clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, we investigated 33 strains of P. aeruginosa isolated from the cornea of microbial keratitis patients in India and Australia between 1992 and 2018 to understand the prevalence of acquired fluoroquinolone resistance genes in ocular isolates and to assess whether the possession of those genes was associated with fluoroquinolone susceptibility. Fourteen out of 33 strains were resistant to at least one fluoroquinolone.

We obtained the whole genome sequence of 33 isolates using Illumina MiSeq platform and investigated the prevalence of two fluoroquinolone resistance genes crpP and qnrVC1. To examine the associated mobile genetic elements of qnrVC1 positive strains, we obtained long read sequences using Oxford Nanopore MinION and performed hybrid assembly to combine long reads with Illumina short sequence reads. We further assessed mutations in quinolone resistance determining regions (QRDRs) and antibiotic susceptibilities to ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and moxifloxacin to examine the association between resistance genes and phenotype.

Twenty strains possessed crpP in genetic islands characterised by possession of integrative conjugative elements. The qnrVC1 gene was carried by four isolates on class I integrons and Tn3 transposons along with aminoglycoside and beta-lactam resistance genes. We did not observe any evidence of plasmids carrying fluoroquinolone resistance genes. Resistance to fluoroquinolones was observed in those strains which possessed crpP, qnrVC1 and that had QRDRs mutations. The presence of crpP on its own was not associated with increased resistance to fluoroquinolones.

Authors: Mahjabeen Khan, Stephen Summers, Scott A Rice, Fiona Stapleton, Mark D P Willcox, Dinesh Subedi