2 'nonpathogenic' Kelbsiella strains can cause HAIs, study finds

Three types of drug-resistant Klebsiella bacteria can cause life-threatening infections in hospital patients, according to a study published in mSphere.

Klebsiella bacteria, which have displayed growing antibiotic resistance in recent years, can cause hospital-acquired infections in the form of pneumonia, sepsis, wound infections and urinary tract infections.

To better understand Klebsiella bacteria, researchers sequenced the bacteria's entire genome from 1,777 clinical samples. Using the genomic information, researchers determined up to 12 percent of the samples had been misidentified as K. pneumoniae — the strain most attributed to HAIs. The misidentified samples were from one of two related species, Klebsiella variicola or Klebsiella quasipneumoniae. These two strains had previously been classified as nonpathogenic bacteria.

"Not only are these cousins of K. pneumoniae causing similar infections, but they are also sharing these powerful drug resistance genes," said lead author S. Wesley Long, MD, PhD, associate medical director of the diagnostic microbiology lab at Houston Methodist Hospital. "In the race of trying to understand pathogens and find new antibiotics, or therapies outside the box of traditional antibiotics, this expands our knowledge of what pathogenic Klebsiella look like."

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