The highly diverse plasmid population found in Escherichia coli colonizing travellers to Laos and its role in antimicrobial resistance gene carriage.
Snaith AE., Dunn SJ., Moran RA., Newton PN., Dance DAB., Davong V., Kuenzli E., Kantele A., Corander J., McNally A.
Increased colonization by antimicrobial-resistant organisms is closely associated with international travel. This study investigated the diversity of mobile genetic elements involved with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) gene carriage in extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli that colonized travellers to Laos. Long-read sequencing was used to reconstruct complete plasmid sequences from 48 isolates obtained from the daily stool samples of 23 travellers over a 3 week period. This method revealed a collection of 105 distinct plasmids, 38.1 % (n=40) of which carried AMR genes. The plasmids in this population were diverse, mostly unreported and included 38 replicon types, with F-type plasmids (n=23) the most prevalent amongst those carrying AMR genes. Fine-scale analysis of all plasmids identified numerous AMR gene contexts and emphasized the importance of IS elements, specifically members of the IS6/IS26 family, in the evolution of complex multidrug resistance regions. We found a concerning convergence of ESBL and colistin resistance determinants, with three plasmids from two different F-type lineages carrying bla CTX-M and mcr genes. The extensive diversity seen here highlights the worrying probability that stable new vehicles for AMR will evolve in E. coli populations that can disseminate internationally through travel networks.