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Bacteroides fragilis: A whole MALDI-based workflow from identification to confirmation of carbapenemase production for routine laboratories

Cordovana, M., Kostrzewa, M., Sóki, J., Witt, E., Ambretti, S., Pranada, A.B.
Anaerobe 2018 v.54 pp. 246-253
Bacteroides fragilis, beta-lactamase, enzyme activity, genes, genetic analysis, hydrolysis, imipenem, matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization mass spectrometry, pathogens, phenotype, polymerase chain reaction, rapid methods, therapeutics, Germany, Italy
Bacteroides fragilis is a frequent anaerobic pathogen and can cause severe infections. Resistance to carbapenems, associated with the cfiA gene encoded carbapenemase, represents an emerging problem. To date, no rapid methods are available to detect and confirm this resistance mechanism in routine laboratories, and the missed recognition of carbapenemase-producing strains can lead to therapeutic failures. In this study we have investigated a whole MALDI-TOF MS-based workflow to detect carbapenemase-producing B. fragilis, using the largest set of B. fragilis clinical isolates ever tested. The presence of the cfiA gene was predicted by MALDI subtyping into Division I (cfiA-negative) or Division II (cfiA-positive). The carbapenemase activity in cfiA-positive strains was confirmed by a MALDI-TOF MS imipenem hydrolysis assay (MBT STAR-Carba, Bruker Daltonik, Germany), that was further used for a characterization of the strains in terms of cfiA expression level.The validity of MALDI subtyping was verified by PCR for the cfiA gene, while results of MALDI hydrolysis assay were compared to conventional methods for susceptibility testing and carbapenemase detection (Carba-NP and disk diffusion synergy test). A genetic analysis of the IS elements upstream cfiA was performed, for the evaluations regarding the expression level of cfiA. A total of 5300 B. fragilis isolates (406 from Bologna, Italy, and 4894 from Dortmund, Germany) were identified and subtyped by MALDI-TOF MS, yielding 41/406 (10.1%) strains from Bologna and 374/4894 (7.6%) from Dortmund to belong to Division II. Molecular verification by PCR for the cfiA gene on a subset of strains confirmed the MALDI typing results in all cases (sensitivity and specificity of 100%). MBT STAR-Carba assay detected the carbapenemase activity in all of the 70 cfiA-carrying strains tested. Moreover, it allowed distinct separation into slow (59) and fast (11) imipenem hydrolyzers corresponding to cfiA expression levels as well as to low or high MICs for carbapenems, respectively. Among the 11 cfiA-positive strains with high carbapenem MIC, only 7 harboured IS elements upstream the carbapenemase gene showing low expression level as well.The MALDI-TOF MS-based workflow was superior to the currently available phenotypic methods for carbapenemase detection as it proved to be more sensitive and accurate than Carba NP and disk diffusion synergy test. The whole MALDI-TOF MS-based workflow allows an accurate identification of B. fragilis clinical strains with reliable classification into Division I/II, and confirmation of the carbapenemase-production, together with estimation of carbapenemase activity, within less than 2 h. This may be of particular interest for early therapeutical decisions in life-threatening infections.