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Concept: Acinetobacter baumannii


ABSTRACT New treatments are needed for extensively drug-resistant (XDR) Gram-negative bacilli (GNB), such as Acinetobacter baumannii. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) was previously reported to enhance bacterial clearance of GNB, including A. baumannii. However, here we have shown that 100% of wild-type mice versus 0% of TLR4-deficient mice died of septic shock due to A. baumannii infection, despite having similar tissue bacterial burdens. The strain lipopolysaccharide (LPS) content and TLR4 activation by extracted LPS did not correlate with in vivo virulence, nor did colistin resistance due to LPS phosphoethanolamine modification. However, more-virulent strains shed more LPS during growth than less-virulent strains, resulting in enhanced TLR4 activation. Due to the role of LPS in A. baumannii virulence, an LpxC inhibitor (which affects lipid A biosynthesis) antibiotic was tested. The LpxC inhibitor did not inhibit growth of the bacterium (MIC > 512 µg/ml) but suppressed A. baumannii LPS-mediated activation of TLR4. Treatment of infected mice with the LpxC inhibitor enhanced clearance of the bacteria by enhancing opsonophagocytic killing, reduced serum LPS concentrations and inflammation, and completely protected the mice from lethal infection. These results identify a previously unappreciated potential for the new class of LpxC inhibitor antibiotics to treat XDR A. baumannii infections. Furthermore, they have far-reaching implications for pathogenesis and treatment of infections caused by GNB and for the discovery of novel antibiotics not detected by standard in vitro screens. IMPORTANCE Novel treatments are needed for infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a Gram-negative bacterium that is extremely antibiotic resistant. The current study was undertaken to understand the immunopathogenesis of these infections, as a basis for defining novel treatments. The primary strain characteristic that differentiated virulent from less-virulent strains was shedding of Gram-negative lipopolysaccharide (LPS) during growth. A novel class of antibiotics, called LpxC inhibitors, block LPS synthesis, but these drugs do not demonstrate the ability to kill A. baumannii in vitro. We found that an LpxC inhibitor blocked the ability of bacteria to activate the sepsis cascade, enhanced opsonophagocytic killing of the bacteria, and protected mice from lethal infection. Thus, an entire new class of antibiotics which is already in development has heretofore-unrecognized potential to treat A. baumannii infections. Furthermore, standard antibiotic screens based on in vitro killing failed to detect this treatment potential of LpxC inhibitors for A. baumannii infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Microbiology, Antibiotic resistance, Lipid, Penicillin, Acinetobacter baumannii, Endotoxin


Acinetobacter baumannii is an important nosocomial pathogen that accounts for up to 20 percent of infections in intensive care units worldwide. Furthermore, A. baumannii strains have emerged that are resistant to all available antimicrobials. These facts highlight the dire need for new therapeutic strategies to combat this growing public health threat. Given the critical role for transition metals at the pathogen-host interface, interrogating the role for these metals in A. baumannii physiology and pathogenesis could elucidate novel therapeutic strategies. Toward this end, the role for calprotectin- (CP)-mediated chelation of manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn) in defense against A. baumannii was investigated. These experiments revealed that CP inhibits A. baumannii growth in vitro through chelation of Mn and Zn. Consistent with these in vitro data, Imaging Mass Spectrometry revealed that CP accompanies neutrophil recruitment to the lung and accumulates at foci of infection in a murine model of A. baumannii pneumonia. CP contributes to host survival and control of bacterial replication in the lung and limits dissemination to secondary sites. Using CP as a probe identified an A. baumannii Zn acquisition system that contributes to Zn uptake, enabling this organism to resist CP-mediated metal chelation, which enhances pathogenesis. Moreover, evidence is provided that Zn uptake across the outer membrane is an energy-dependent process in A. baumannii. Finally, it is shown that Zn limitation reverses carbapenem resistance in multidrug resistant A. baumannii underscoring the clinical relevance of these findings. Taken together, these data establish Zn acquisition systems as viable therapeutic targets to combat multidrug resistant A. baumannii infections.

Concepts: Microbiology, Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Zinc, Pseudomonadales, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter, Moraxellaceae


Infections by A. calcoaceticus-A. baumannii (ACB) complex isolates represent a serious threat for wounded and burn patients. Three international multidrug-resistant (MDR) clones (EU clone I-III) are responsible for a large proportion of nosocomial infections with A. baumannii but other emerging strains with high epidemic potential also occur.

Concepts: Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonadales, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter, Moraxellaceae


An understanding of why certain Acinetobacter species are more successful in causing nosocomial infections, transmission and epidemic spread in healthcare institutions compared with other species is lacking. We used genomic, phenotypic and virulence studies to identify differences between Acinetobacter species. Fourteen strains representing nine species were examined. Genomic analysis of six strains showed that the A. baumannii core genome contains many genes important for diverse metabolism and survival in the host. Most of the A. baumannii core genes were also present in one or more of the less clinically successful species. In contrast, when the accessory genome of an individual A. baumannii strain was compared to a strain of a less successful species (A. calcoaceticus RUH2202), many operons with putative virulence function were found to be present only in the A. baumannii strain, including the csu operon, the acinetobactin chromosomal cluster, and bacterial defence mechanisms. Phenotype microarray analysis showed that compared to A. calcoaceticus (RUH2202), A. baumannii ATCC 19606(T) was able to utilise nitrogen sources more effectively and was more tolerant to pH, osmotic and antimicrobial stress. Virulence differences were also observed, with A. baumannii ATCC 19606(T), A. pittii SH024, and A. nosocomialis RUH2624 persisting and forming larger biofilms on human skin than A. calcoaceticus. A. baumannii ATCC 19606(T) and A. pittii SH024 were also able to survive in a murine thigh infection model, whereas the other two species were eradicated. The current study provides important insights into the elucidation of differences in clinical relevance among Acinetobacter species.

Concepts: Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter


For its remarkable ability to acquire antibiotic resistance and to survive in nosocomial environments, Acinetobacter baumannii has become a significant nosocomial infectious agent worldwide. Tigecycline is one of the few therapeutic options to treat infections caused by A. baumannii isolates. However, tigecycline resistance has been increasingly reported. Our aim was to assess the prevalence and characteristics of efflux-based tigecycline resistance in clinical isolates of A. baumannii collected from a hospital in China. A total of 74 A. baumannii isolates including 64 tigecycline non-susceptible A. baumannii (TNAB) and 10 tigecycline susceptible A. baumannii (TSAB) isolates were analyzed. The majority of them were detected to be positive for adeABC, adeRS, adeIJK and abeM, while the adeE gene was found in only one TSAB isolate. Compared with TSAB isolates, the mean expression level of adeB, adeJ, adeG and abeM in TNAB isolates were observed to increase by 29-, 3-, 0.7- and 1-fold, respectively. The efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) PAβN and carbonyl cyanide 3-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) could partially reverse the resistance pattern of tigecycline. Moreover, tetX1 gene was detected in 12 (18.8%) TNAB isolates. To our knowledge, this is the first report that tetX1 gene was detected in the A. baumannii isolates. ST208 and ST191 which both clustered into clonal complex 92 (CC92) were the predominant sequence types (STs). This study showed that active efflux pump AdeABC appeared to play important roles in the tigecycline resistance of A. baumannii. The dissemination of TNAB isolates in our hospital is mainly attributable to the spread of CC92.

Concepts: Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotic, Pseudomonadales, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter, Tigecycline, Efflux


Acinetobacter baumannii is a common nosocomial pathogen and strain-typing method important in hospital outbreak investigations and epidemiologic surveillance. We describe a method for identifying strain-specific peptide markers based on LC-MS/MS profiling of digested peptides. This method classified a test set of A. baumannii isolates collected from a hospital outbreak with discriminatory performance exceeding that of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Microbiology, Nosocomial infection, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonadales, Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter, Moraxellaceae


Widespread antibiotic use in clinical medicine and the livestock industry has contributed to the global spread of multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial pathogens, including Acinetobacter baumannii We report on a method used to produce a personalized bacteriophage-based therapeutic treatment for a 68-year old diabetic patient with necrotizing pancreatitis complicated by a MDR A. baumannii infection. Despite multiple antibiotic courses and efforts at percutaneous drainage of a pancreatic pseudocyst, the patient deteriorated over a four-month period. In the absence of effective antibiotics, two laboratories identified nine different bacteriophages with lytic activity for an A. baumannii isolate from the patient. Administration of these bacteriophages intravenously and percutaneously into the abscess cavities was associated with reversal of the patient’s downward clinical trajectory, clearance of the A. baumannii infection, and a return to health. The outcome of this case suggests that the methods described here for the production of bacteriophage therapeutics could be applied to similar cases and that more concerted efforts to investigate the use of therapeutic bacteriophages for MDR bacterial infections are warranted.

Concepts: Inflammation, Medicine, Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Antibiotic resistance, Phage therapy, Acinetobacter baumannii


The ESKAPE (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) pathogens cause an increasing number of nosocomial infections worldwide since they escape the inhibitory effect of the available antibiotics and the immune response. Here, we report the broad-spectrum and potent antibacterial activity of Kisameet clay, a natural clay mineral from British Columbia, Canada, against a group of multidrug-resistant ESKAPE strains. The results suggest that this natural clay might be developed as a therapeutic option for the treatment of serious infections caused by these important pathogens.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Pneumonia, Nosocomial infection, Staphylococcus aureus, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii


With the recent emergence of reports on resistant Gram-negative ‘superbugs’, infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria have been named as one of the most urgent global health threats due to the lack of effective and biocompatible drugs. Here, we show that a class of antimicrobial agents, termed ‘structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers’ (SNAPPs) exhibit sub-μM activity against all Gram-negative bacteria tested, including ESKAPE and colistin-resistant and MDR (CMDR) pathogens, while demonstrating low toxicity. SNAPPs are highly effective in combating CMDR Acinetobacter baumannii infections in vivo, the first example of a synthetic antimicrobial polymer with CMDR Gram-negative pathogen efficacy. Furthermore, we did not observe any resistance acquisition by A. baumannii (including the CMDR strain) to SNAPPs. Comprehensive analyses using a range of microscopy and (bio)assay techniques revealed that the antimicrobial activity of SNAPPs proceeds via a multimodal mechanism of bacterial cell death by outer membrane destabilization, unregulated ion movement across the cytoplasmic membrane and induction of the apoptotic-like death pathway, possibly accounting for why we did not observe resistance to SNAPPs in CMDR bacteria. Overall, SNAPPs show great promise as low-cost and effective antimicrobial agents and may represent a weapon in combating the growing threat of MDR Gram-negative bacteria.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Microbiology, Antibiotic resistance, Gram-negative bacteria, Acinetobacter baumannii


Sinks in patient rooms are associated with hospital-acquired infections. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of removal of sinks from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patient rooms and the introduction of ‘water-free’ patient care on gram-negative bacilli colonization rates.

Concepts: Patient, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile, Acinetobacter baumannii