Occurrence and characterisation of ESBL-encoding plasmids among Escherichia coli isolates from fresh vegetables
Extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli isolates have been increasingly reported in different reservoirs. The aims of this study were to investigate the presence of ESBL-producing E. coli in fresh vegetables and to characterise their ESBL gene-carrying plasmids. Among the 245 samples from vegetables investigated during 2011–2013, seven putative ESBL-producing E. coli (salad n = 2, sprouts n = 5) were found. They were subjected to ESBL phenotypic confirmatory tests, detection/sequencing of ESBL genes, antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST), phylotyping, XbaI-macrorestriction analysis, multilocus sequence typing and transformation. Transformants were characterised by AST, S1-nuclease PFGE, replicon typing, conjugation and investigated for co-located antimicrobial resistance genes. Two ESBL gene-carrying plasmids were sequenced using a HiSeq 2500 system. The seven isolates were confirmed as ESBL producers, displayed unrelated XbaI-patterns and unique sequence types (STs) and belonged to the phylogroups A, B1 or D. The ESBL genes were located on plasmids. Two plasmids carrying blaCTX-M-14 genes (incompatibility group IncK or IncHI2) were seen in isolates from salad (ST973) and sprout (ST527). Two blaCTX-M-15- (IncFIB; non-typeable) and the IncN blaCTX-M-65- and IncHI2 blaCTX-M-125-carrying plasmids were found in isolates from sprouts (ST410; ST847; ST10; ST542). All plasmids were conjugative, except for the IncFIA-FIB blaCTX-M-2-carrying plasmid. Sequence analysis of two plasmids identified the ESBL genes in close location to other resistance genes: sulfonamide resistance gene sul2, streptomycin resistance genes strA and strB, the plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance gene qnrS1 and blaTEM-1 (sul2-strA-strB-IS66-blaTEM-1-tnpR-ΔtnpA-ISEcp1-blaCTX-M-15-Δorf477-ΔtnpA-qnrS1) or the fosfomycin resistance gene fosA3 (ΔISEcp1-blaCTX-M-125-ΔIS903B-fosA3). These observations underline the importance of vegetables as reservoirs for multidrug resistant ESBL-producing E. coli.
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