Microbiol Spectr. 2021 Sep 22:e0055521. doi: 10.1128/Spectrum.00555-21. Online ahead of print.
Phenotypic variants (PV) are colonies of the same species in the same specimen with different morphological features. It is controversial whether antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) should be done for all PV. The objectives of this study were to quantify the proportion of differing antimicrobial susceptibility patterns (dASP) among PV and to identify species and antimicrobial compounds that are mostly affected. All PV from routine diagnostics (University Hospital Münster, Germany; 1 September 2019 to 31 August 2020) were subjected to species identification (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry [MALDI-TOF MS]) and AST (Vitek 2). To assess the dASP, only antimicrobial agents were considered for which Vitek-derived MIC were available (interpreted according to the EUCAST clinical breakpoints). The categorical agreement (CA; agreement with the AST categories S [susceptible, standard dosing regimen], I [susceptible, increased exposure], R [resistant]) of the PV was calculated. The PV of Escherichia coli (n = 260), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (n = 86), Klebsiella pneumoniae (n = 47), Enterobacter cloacae complex (n = 45), and Staphylococcus aureus (n = 38) were included. The median CA was 95% (range, 80 to 100%, depending on the species). The colony characteristics (e.g., form/size, color, margin, hemolysis) were not indicative for dASP. PV showed a high categorical agreement in the AST categories. This observation supports a test strategy to perform AST for only one colony of PV. IMPORTANCE Phenotypic variants of bacteria are frequent in routine diagnostics and can display differing antimicrobial susceptibility patterns. We found that the likelihood of different antimicrobial susceptibility is low among PV. To save laboratory resources, only one isolate per PV could be tested to guide the antimicrobial treatment of patients.