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Mapping the genomes of antibiotic-resistant superbugs

The University of Florence in the most important European research on Klebsiella pneumoniae

The University of Florence is among the contributors to one of the largest researches ever carried out on Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterial pathogen that exhibits a remarkable propensity to evolve resistance to antibiotics and is responsible for several infections, sometimes fatal, frequently acquired in the hospital setting.

The work, published in Nature Microbiology, studied the genomes of over 1700 Klebsiella pneumoniae strains, which had been collected in a previous international study carried out in 2013-2014, the EuSCAPE project, involving over 400 hospitals in 36 countries across the continent.

The research was carried out by universities and research institutes from Great Britain, Germany, Holland and Italy; representing Italy, in addition to the University of Florence (Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine) and the Careggi University Hospital (Microbiology and Virology Unit), there was also the Italian National Institute of Health [“Epidemic of carbapenem- resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in Europe is driven by nosocomial spread "Doi: 10.1038 / s41564-019-0492-8].

"The genomic characterisation was carried out using the most modern next generation sequencing technologies," explains Gian Maria Rossolini, professor of Microbiology and Clinical Microbiology at the University of Florence, among the authors of the publication together with Tommaso Giani, assistant professor the Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine.

The University of Florence's scholars have contributed to the determination and classification of bacterial behaviour vs. antibiotic resistance (phenotype) and to the correlation with the genetic profile, allowing for the first time to have an in-depth picture of the population diversity of these pathogenic bacteria circulating in European hospitals.

"Some strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae - explains Rossolini - have acquired resistance to most of the currently available antibiotics, including carbapenems. Infections caused by these strains (Carbapenem-Resistant - CR) are very difficult to treat and, consequently, can be burdened by a high mortality. As a matter of fact, the management of these infections is currently one of the major problems in the medical field, with significant implications for public health: Italy is one of the European countries where the phenomenon has become a matter of concern."

"The research is of great importance for the breadth of the analysed sample and for the detail of the analysis of the mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics and of the diffusion dynamics, whose knowledge is fundamental to refine control strategies," concludes Rossolini.



31 July 2019
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