Assessment of three indigenous South African herbivores as potential reservoirs and vectors of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli
Tigecycline is a glycylcycline antibiotic active against multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens. The objectives of our study were to examine the potential of the Tet(A), Tet(K), Tet(M), and Tet(X) tetracycline resistance proteins to acquire mutations causing tigecycline resistance and to determine how this affects resistance to earlier classes of tetracyclines. Mutations in all four tet genes caused a significant increase in the tigecycline MIC in Escherichia coli, and strains expressing mutant Tet(A) and Tet(X) variants reached clinically relevant MICs (2 mg/liter and 3 mg/liter, respectively). Mutations predominantly accumulated in transmembrane domains of the efflux pumps, most likely increasing the accommodation of tigecycline as a substrate. All selected Tet(M) mutants contained at least one mutation in the functionally most important loop III of domain IV. Deletion of leucine 505 of this loop led to the highest increase of the tigecycline MIC (0.5 mg/liter) among Tet(M) mutants. It also caused collateral sensitivity to earlier classes of tetracyclines. A majority of the Tet(X) mutants showed increased activity against all three classes of tetracylines. All tested Tet proteins have the potential to acquire mutations leading to increased MICs of tigecycline. As tet genes are widely found in pathogenic bacteria and spread easily by horizontal gene transfer, resistance development by alteration of existing Tet proteins might compromise the future medical use of tigecycline. We predict that Tet(X) might become the most problematic future Tet determinant, since its weak intrinsic tigecycline activity can be mutationally improved to reach clinically relevant levels without collateral loss in activity to other tetracyclines.