A research team from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, examining bacterial isolates obtained in hospital and non-hospital clinical settings between 2000 and 2006, has identified drug-resistant strains of E. coli and Klebsiella bacteria in more than 50 blood, urine and respiratory samples.
These resistant strains, which resemble bacteria reported in Latin America, Asia and Europe, were thought to be rare in the U.S.
This is the first report of this phenomenon in the United States, the researchers said.
The resistant strains produce “extended-spectrum beta-lactamases” (ESBLs), enzymes that destroy penicillin or cephalosporin class drugs, thereby conferring resistance to those drugs, said James Jorgensen, Ph.D., professor of pathology, medicine, microbiology and clinical laboratory sciences at the Health Science Center. The strains are typically resistant to other commonly used antibiotic drug classes, as well.
Dr. Jorgensen was senior author of a November 2007 report in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, which honored the article in its newsletter's Journal Highlights section.
“These very common bacteria, when they produce these enzymes, are much harder to kill with antibiotics,” Dr. Jorgensen said.
The fact that outpatients presented with the ESBLs caught the researchers' attention.
“This antibiotic resistance problem is likely to become widespread,” said paper co-author Jan Evans Patterson, M.D., professor of medicine, infectious diseases and pathology at the UT Health Science Center. “It affects the way we will treat infections in the future. In the past, we were concerned with antibiotic resistance in the hospital primarily, but in this review many of the strains we detected were from the community. This tells us antibiotic resistance is spreading in the community, as well, and will affect how we choose antibiotics for outpatient infections.”
If the trend continues, it may become difficult to select appropriate antibiotic therapy for urinary tract infections, for example. “The trend over the last decade has been to treat urinary infections empirically, to pick the drug that has worked,” Dr. Jorgensen said. “Now it is important for physicians to culture the patient's urine to be sure they have selected the right antibiotic. The top three drugs that are often prescribed may not be effective with these resistant bacteria.”
Laboratories that perform urine cultures and susceptibility testing should check for the presence of ESBLs, something they don't always do currently, Dr. Jorgensen said.
Other authors from the UT Health Science Center are James Lewis, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases; Monica Herrera, M.D., senior research assistant in microbiology; and Brian Wickes, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million and 5,000 faculty and staff, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio's economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to seven campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit http://www.uthscsa.edu