Global dissemination of a multidrug resistant Escherichia coli clone.
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Escherichia coli sequence type 131 (ST131) is a globally disseminated, multidrug resistant (MDR) clone responsible for a high proportion of urinary tract and bloodstream infections. The rapid emergence and successful spread of E. coli ST131 is strongly associated with several factors, including resistance to fluoroquinolones, high virulence gene content, the possession of the type 1 fimbriae FimH30 allele, and the production of the CTX-M-15 extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL). Here, we used genome sequencing to examine the molecular epidemiology of a collection of E. coli ST131 strains isolated from six distinct geographical locations across the world spanning 2000-2011. The global phylogeny of E. coli ST131, determined from whole-genome sequence data, revealed a single lineage of E. coli ST131 distinct from other extraintestinal E. coli strains within the B2 phylogroup. Three closely related E. coli ST131 sublineages were identified, with little association to geographic origin. The majority of single-nucleotide variants associated with each of the sublineages were due to recombination in regions adjacent to mobile genetic elements (MGEs). The most prevalent sublineage of ST131 strains was characterized by fluoroquinolone resistance, and a distinct virulence factor and MGE profile. Four different variants of the CTX-M ESBL-resistance gene were identified in our ST131 strains, with acquisition of CTX-M-15 representing a defining feature of a discrete but geographically dispersed ST131 sublineage. This study confirms the global dispersal of a single E. coli ST131 clone and demonstrates the role of MGEs and recombination in the evolution of this important MDR pathogen.
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