Elife. 2021 Apr 19;10:e67310. doi: 10.7554/eLife.67310. Online ahead of print.
In this era of rising antibiotic resistance, in contrast to our increasing understanding of mechanisms that cause resistance, our understanding of mechanisms that influence the propensity to evolve resistance remains limited. Here, we identified genetic factors that facilitate the evolution of resistance to carbapenems, the antibiotic of 'last resort,' in Klebsiella pneumoniae, the major carbapenem resistant species. In clinical isolates, we found that high-level transposon insertional mutagenesis plays an important role in contributing to high-level resistance frequencies in several major and emerging carbapenem-resistant lineages. A broader spectrum of resistance-conferring mutations for select carbapenems such as ertapenem also enables higher resistance frequencies and importantly, creates stepping-stones to achieve high-level resistance to all carbapenems. These mutational mechanisms can contribute to the evolution of resistance, in conjunction with the loss of systems that restrict horizontal resistance gene uptake, such as the CRISPR-Cas system. Given the need for greater antibiotic stewardship, these findings argue that in addition to considering the current efficacy of an antibiotic for a clinical isolate in antibiotic selection, considerations of future efficacy are also important. The genetic background of a clinical isolate and the exact antibiotic identity can and should also be considered as it is a determinant of a strain's propensity to become resistant. Together, these findings thus provide a molecular framework for understanding acquisition of carbapenem resistance in K. pneumoniae with important implications for diagnosing and treating this important class of pathogens.