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Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences

On-line version ISSN 2175-9790

Braz. J. Pharm. Sci. vol.49 no.1 São Paulo Jan./Mar. 2013 



High genetic diversity among Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolated in a public hospital in Brazil



Vera Lúcia Dias SiqueiraI, *; Rosilene Fressatti CardosoII; Rubia Andreia Falleiros de PáduaII; Katiany Rizzieri Caleffi-FerracioliII; Cesar HelbelIII; Adolfo Carlos Barreto SantosIV; Elisabeth Eyko AokiIII; Celso Vataru NakamuraI

IPostgraduate Program in Pharmaceutical Science
IIDepartment of Clinical Analysis and Biomedicine
IIIUniversity Hospital of Maringá, State University of Maringá
IVLaboratory of Mycobacteriology, Department of Biological Science, School of Pharmaceutical Science, Paulista State University




In Brazil and other regions of the world, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. have emerged as important agents of nosocomial infection and are commonly involved in outbreaks. The main objective of the present study was to evaluate the genetic relationship among P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolated from patients in a public university hospital in northwestern Paraná, Brazil, and report their antimicrobial resistance profile. A total of 75 P. aeruginosa and 94 Acinetobacter spp. isolates were phenotypically identified and tested for antibiotic susceptibility using automated methodology. Polymyxin B was tested by disk diffusion for P. aeruginosa. Metallo-β-lactamase (MBL) was detected using a disk approximation test. Genotyping was performed using enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus polymerase chain reaction (ERIC-PCR). Approximately 55% of the P. aeruginosa isolates and 92% of the Acinetobacter spp. isolates were multiresistant, but none were MBL-producers. ERIC-PCR revealed the presence of small clusters of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter spp., most likely OXA-type carbapenemase producers. Furthermore, high genetic diversity in P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. clinical isolates was observed, suggesting that cross-transmission is not very frequent in the studied hospital.

Uniterms: Pseudomonas aeruginosa/antimicrobial resistance profile. Pseudomonas aeruginosa/genetic study. Acinetobacter spp./antimicrobial resistance profile. Acinetobacter spp./genetic study. Antimicrobial resistance. Bacterial typing.


No Brasil, bem como em outras regiões do mundo, Pseudomonas aeruginosa e Acinetobacter spp. surgiram como importantes agentes de infecção nosocomial e são comumente envolvidos em surtos. O objetivo principal deste estudo foi descrever a relação genética de P. aeruginosa e Acinetobacter spp. isoladas de pacientes internados em hospital universitário público do noroeste do Paraná - Brasil e reportar o perfil de resistência dessas bactérias. Um total de 75 P. aeruginosa e 94 Acinetobacter spp. isolados foi fenotipicamente identificado e testado para a suscetibilidade aos antibióticos por metodologia automatizada. A polimixina B foi testada por difusão em disco para P. aeruginosa. Metalo-β-lactamase (MBL) foi detectada por disco-aproximação. Análise genotípica foi realizada por enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus polymerase chain reaction (ERIC-PCR). Aproximadamente 55% dos isolados de P. aeruginosa e 92% de Acinetobacter spp. isolados foram multirresistentes, mas nenhum foi produtor de MBL. Os resultados de ERIC-PCR revelaram pequenos grupamentos de Acinetobacter spp. resistentes aos carbapenêmicos, provavelmente pela produção de carbapenemases do tipo OXA. Além disso, alta diversidade genética entre os isolados de P. aeruginosa e Acinetobacter spp. foi observada, sugerindo que a transmissão cruzada destas espécies bacterianas não é muito frequente em nosso hospital.

Unitermos: Pseudomonas aeruginosa/perfil de resistência. Pseudomonas aeruginosa/estudo genético. Acinetobacter spp./perfil de resistência. Acinetobacter spp./estudo genético. Resistência antimicrobiana. Tipagem bacteriana.




Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. have been the cause of nosocomial outbreaks worldwide (Cortes et al., 2009; Hosoglu et al., 2011), including in Brazil (Brito et al., 2003; Prates et al., 2011), where multidrug resistance is common among these isolates (Rossi, 2011). Carbapenems often represent the only effective treatment. However, carbapenem-resistant isolates have frequently been detected, leading clinicians to resume the use of older classes of antibiotics, such as polymyxins (Giamarellou, 2010). The production of carbapenemase enzymes has been an important mechanism of resistance in these bacteria. Metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs), enzymes able to hydrolyze all β-lactam antibiotics with the exception of monobactams, are particularly common in P. aeruginosa, and the genes that encode them are carried by highly mobile elements that play an important role in hospital environments (Cornaglia, Giamarellou, Rossolini, 2011).

Enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus-polymerase chain reaction (ERIC-PCR) has shown good applicability in typing A. baumannii and P. aeruginosa (Presterl et al., 1997; Syrmis et al., 2004; Kidd et al., 2011). Although some studies have used ERIC-PCR to epidemiologically study P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. nosocomial isolates in Brazil (Costa et al., 2006; Saalfeld et al., 2009; Stehling, Leite, Silveira, 2010; Ferreira et al., 2011; Viana et al., 2011), the specific epidemiology of these microorganisms remains unknown.

The main objective of the present study was to describe the genetic relationship among P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. clinical isolates using ERIC-PCR and report their resistance profiles against antimicrobial agents that are routinely used in a public university hospital in northwestern Paraná, Brazil.



Seventy-five P. aeruginosa and 94 Acinetobacter spp. isolates from various clinical specimens from patients admitted to a public hospital in northwestern Paraná, Brazil, between January 2007 and July 2009 were studied. Only one isolate from each patient was selected and stored at -80 ºC in the Laboratory of Medical Bacteriology, Department of Clinical Analysis and Biomedicine, State University of Maringá. No personal data were retrieved from the patients, so privacy could be assured and legal transgressions concerning human research could be avoided (Resolution 196/96 Brazil National Health Council, Health Ministry). The present study was approved by the Regulatory Commission of Academic Activities and Voluntary Services of the studied hospital.

Phenotypic identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) were performed using an AUTO-SCAN-4 automated system (Siemens Microscan, Deerfield, IL, USA), with the exception of polymyxin B for P. aeruginosa, which was tested by disk diffusion. The data were interpreted according to the criteria of the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI; 2007-2009).

Ceftazidime-resistant P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolates were evaluated for the presence of MBL using the disk-approximation test, 2-mercaptopropionic acid (2-MPA; Acros, Bridgewater, NJ, USA), and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA; Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA, USA; Arakawa et al. 2000). IMP-1-producing Acinetobacter baumannii (A-3227) and P. aeruginosa ATCC 27853 were used as positive and negative controls, respectively.

Genomic DNA of P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolates was extracted from overnight bacterial growth on Mueller-Hinton agar (Difco, Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD, USA; Swanenburg et al., 1998). The PCRs were performed using primers ERIC1R (5'-ATGTAAGCTCCTGGGGATTCAC-3') and ERIC2 (5'-AAGTAAGTGACTGGGGTGAGCG-3') as described by Szczuka and Kaznowski (2004). The gels were stained with ethidium bromide, and the spectral band analysis on agarose gels was performed using BioNumerics software (version 4.45, Applied Maths, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium). The Dendrogram was constructed using the Dice coefficient, and the phylogenetic distance was determined using the Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic Mean algorithm (Sneath and Sokal, 1973). Isolates with > 95% similarity were considered closely related.



The studied institution is a small-size public hospital with three intensive care units (ICUs): adult, pediatric, and neonatal. P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. were isolated more frequently in male patients (62.7% and 59.6%, respectively), especially in patients older than 60 years (54.7% and 39.4%, respectively) and in ICUs (41.4% and 71.3%, respectively). P. aeruginosa isolates were detected at a higher frequency in urine samples, whereas Acinetobacter spp. isolates were mainly recovered from tracheal aspirate.

The resistance rate in P. aeruginosa isolates was less than 30% for most of the β-lactam antibiotics, and 54.6% were multiresistant (i.e., resistant to three or more antimicrobial classes; Magiorakos et al., 2012). All of the isolates were polymyxin β-susceptible. For Acinetobacter spp. isolates, the β-lactam resistance rate was greater than 90% to cephalosporins and greater than 50% to the tested carbapenems (Table I). Multiresistance was observed in 91.5%. None of the P. aeruginosa (n = 39) and Acinetobacter spp. (n = 88) isolates with total or intermediate resistance to ceftazidime were positive for MBL.



The ERIC-PCR applied to P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. clinical isolates showed a banding pattern with sizes that rang, from approximately 120 pb to 1200 pb and 120 pb and 1900 pb, respectively.

Considering a Dice correlation coefficient > 0.95, 72 ERIC-PCR patterns were obtained in 75 P. aeruginosa clinical isolates. Seventy isolates (93.3%) were orphans, and the remaining five (6.7%) were included in two clusters comprising two (cluster A) and three (cluster B) isolates (Figure 1).



Two isolates that belonged to cluster A showed identical antimicrobial resistance profiles and were isolated from patients in different clinical units within a time interval of approximately 2 months. Isolates that belonged to cluster B, two with 100% similarity, had equal resistance profiles and were isolated from patients in an adult ICU within a time interval of only 4 days. The third isolate that belonged to cluster B, despite having the same resistance profile, was isolated 13 days later in a patient admitted to the pediatric unit (Table II).

A total of 70 Acinetobacter spp. isolates (74.5%) showed orphan ERIC-PCR patterns, and the remaining 24 (25.5 %) were included in 10 clusters (C-L) comprising two isolates each, with the exception of clusters D and H with three isolates each (Figure 2).



The several small clusters found in Acinetobacter spp. were generally detected in the same unit or units with displacement of patients, such as the adult ICU and medical clinic. Exceptions were observed in clusters D and J, which were composed of isolates from the adult and pediatric ICUs. Acinetobacter clusters included isolates with similar resistance profiles, with some differences related to aminoglycosides and carbapenems. Notably, 60% of the small clusters were carbapenems-resistant Acinetobacter spp. (Table II).



In the present study, the ERIC-PCR assessment and antimicrobial resistance profiles of P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolates from inpatients in a small-size teaching hospital in northwestern Paraná showed a high percentage of multiresistance and genetic diversity. Worrying rates of ceftazidime and carbapenems resistance were observed in P. aeruginosa isolates. However, they were smaller than those observed in isolates from other university hospitals in Brazil, where resistance to these antimicrobials was near or greater than 50% (Zavascki, Cruz, Goldani, 2004; Rocha et al., 2008).

In recent years, MBL production has represented an important mechanism of resistance to most β-lactam antibiotics, including carbapenems, especially in P. aeruginosa (Kunz, Brook, 2010). However, despite a resistance rate of just over 25% detected for carbapenems, none of the P. aeruginosa isolates tested were positive for MBL, demonstrating the probable participation of other resistance mechanisms. The isolation rates of MBL-producing P. aeruginosa have widely varied among Brazilian hospitals, with incidences ranging from 3.1% (Wirth et al., 2009) to 35% (Gonçalves et al., 2009). According to Rossi (2011), São Paulo metallo-β-lactamase (SPM) is the most prevalent MBL in Brazilian isolates. For Acinetobacter spp. isolated in the present study, the observed resistance rates of > 90% for third-generation cephalosporins and nearly 55% for carbapenems may be responsible for the difficulty treating these cases, which has been reported in other studies (Towner, 2009; Kunz, Brook, 2010). MBL was not detected in isolates from this genus, which corroborates other studies that found a low contribution of this enzyme to the increasing rates of resistance in Acinetobacter spp. (Mostachio et al., 2009; Kunz, Brook, 2010). OXA-type β-lactamases have shown an important role in carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter spp. (Poirel, Naas, Nordmann, 2010). In Acinetobacter spp. isolates from Brazilian hospitals, carbapenem resistance is mostly related to β-lactamase OXA-23 (Gales et al., 2012). However, a recent study found a high prevalence of OXA-143 in these bacterial genera (Mostachio et al., 2012). Therefore, the small clusters of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter spp. isolated in this study may have been OXA-type carbapenemase producers.

Although clonal spread is commonly found in hospitals worldwide (Scott and Pitt, 2004; Cortes et al., 2009), including Brazil (Stheling, Leite, Silveira, 2010), the present study detected high genetic diversity, especially among P. aeruginosa isolates. Only two (2.7%) of the 75 isolates showed identical ERIC-PCR patterns (100% similarity), and five (6.7%) had > 95% similarity. However, according to the phenotypic features and demographic conditions, the cross-spread of small clusters of P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp., including carbapenem-resistant isolates, among patients in the hospital, was evident. Importantly, however, the findings of Saalfeld et al. (2009) should be considered, in which high genetic similarity was found among clinical and environmental Acinetobacter spp. isolates in an adult ICU in the same hospital from January to July 2008. These authors suggested that an endemic situation existed by observing the genotypic similarity of isolates using a Dice correlation coefficient > 90%.



Using ERIC-PCR, the present study found high genetic diversity among P. aeruginosa and Acinetobacter spp. isolates, suggesting that cross-contamination is not very frequent in the studied hospital. Because of the known applicability of ERIC-PCR, its good discriminatory power and reproducibility allowed an understanding of the epidemiology of these bacteria in the studied hospital environment.



The present research received financial support from Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA)/Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).



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Received for publication on 09th April 2012
Accepted for publication on 02nd November 2012



* Correspondence: Laboratório de Bacteriologia Médica. Departamento de Análises Clínicas e Biomedicina, Universidade Estadual de Maringá. Av. Colombo, 5790, Bloco T-20, sala 202, 87020-900 - Maringá - Paraná, Brasil. Telefone: 55 44 3011-5376. E-mail:

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