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Carbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales is a public health threat. Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (encoded by alleles of the blaKPC family) is one of the most common transmissible carbapenem resistance mechanisms worldwide. The dissemination of blaKPC historically has been associated with distinct K. pneumoniae lineages (clonal group 258 [CG258]), a particular plasmid family (pKpQIL), and a composite transposon (Tn4401). In the United Kingdom, blaKPC has represented a large-scale, persistent management challenge for some hospitals, particularly in North West England. The dissemination of blaKPC has evolved to be polyclonal and polyspecies, but the genetic mechanisms underpinning this evolution have not been elucidated in detail; this study used short-read whole-genome sequencing of 604 blaKPC-positive isolates (Illumina) and long-read assembly (PacBio)/polishing (Illumina) of 21 isolates for characterization. We observed the dissemination of blaKPC (predominantly blaKPC-2; 573/604 [95%] isolates) across eight species and more than 100 known sequence types. Although there was some variation at the transposon level (mostly Tn4401a, 584/604 [97%] isolates; predominantly with ATTGA-ATTGA target site duplications, 465/604 [77%] isolates), blaKPC spread appears to have been supported by highly fluid, modular exchange of larger genetic segments among plasmid populations dominated by IncFIB (580/604 isolates), IncFII (545/604 isolates), and IncR (252/604 isolates) replicons. The subset of reconstructed plasmid sequences (21 isolates, 77 plasmids) also highlighted modular exchange among non-blaKPC and blaKPC plasmids and the common presence of multiple replicons within blaKPC plasmid structures (>60%). The substantial genomic plasticity observed has important implications for our understanding of the epidemiology of transmissible carbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales for the implementation of adequate surveillance approaches and for control.

Original publication




Journal article


Antimicrob Agents Chemother

Publication Date





Enterobacterales, KPC, carbapenemase, genomic epidemiology, long-read sequencing, outbreak analysis, short-read sequencing, whole-genome sequencing, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Bacterial Proteins, Carbapenems, DNA, Bacterial, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Enterobacteriaceae, Enterobacteriaceae Infections, Genome, Bacterial, Humans, Klebsiella Infections, Molecular Epidemiology, Plasmids, Retrospective Studies, United Kingdom, Whole Genome Sequencing, beta-Lactamases