antibiotic resistance, comparative genomics, gentamicin
The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria presents a global health challenge. Efficient surveillance of bacteria harboring antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) is a critical aspect to controlling the spread. Increased access to microbial genomic data from many diverse populations informs this surveillance but only when functional ARGs are identifiable within the data set. Current, homology-based approaches are effective at identifying the majority of ARGs within given clinical and nonclinical data sets for several pathogens, yet there are still some whose identities remain elusive. By coupling phenotypic profiling with genotypic data, these unknown ARGs can be identified to strengthen homology-based searches. To prove the efficacy and feasibility of this approach, a published data set from the U.S. National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), for which the phenotypic and genotypic data of 640 Salmonella isolates are available, was subjected to this analysis. Six isolates recovered from the NARMS retail meat program between 2011 and 2013 were identified previously as phenotypically resistant to gentamicin but contained no known gentamicin resistance gene. Using the phenotypic and genotypic data, a comparative genomics approach was employed to identify the gene responsible for the observed resistance in all six of the isolates. This gene, grdA, is harbored on a 9,016-bp plasmid that is transferrable to Escherichia coli, confers gentamicin resistance to E. coli, and has never before been reported to confer gentamicin resistance. Bioinformatic analysis of the encoded protein suggests an ATP binding motif. This work demonstrates the advantages associated with coupling genomics technologies with phenotypic data for novel ARG identification.
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy