PolyU discovers a newly emerged superbug — hyper-resistant and hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae

Prof. Chen Sheng, Professor of PolyU’s Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, discovered a newly emerged superbug, hyper-resistant and hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae

Prof. Chen Sheng, Professor of ABCT, collaborating with Prof. Rong Zhang from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, conducted an investigation into a fatal outbreak of pneumonia in the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University in China in February 2016. The study involved five patients who underwent surgical operation for multiple-trauma. All of them were later infected in the intensive care unit (ICU) and developed severe pneumonia, and eventually died of septicaemia and multiple organ failure. The causative agent of these five patients was found to be a carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae (CRKP) strain, a type of previously-defined superbug. Furthermore, these CRKP strains are also hypervirulent and belong to ST11 type of CRKP, the most prevalent and transmissible CRKP strains in Asia. As these strains simultaneously exhibit the features of hyper-resistance, hypervirulence and high transmissibility, they can be considered a real superbug known as ST11 CR-HvKP (ST11 carbapenem-resistant hypervirulent K. pneumoniae).

ST11 K. pneumoniae strains proliferate in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) of human and animals and may cause opportunistic infections such as pneumonia in clinical settings. These strains, after acquiring plasmid encoding a carbapenemase gene, become resistant to the carbapenem antibiotics and caused untreatable or hard-to-be treated infections, therefore defined as superbug. These superbug strains could further evolve to become ST11 CR-HvKP through acquisition of the hypervirulence plasmids. The ST11 CR-HvKP strains do not only infect lungs and cause pneumonia, but also invade the bloodstream and other internal organs. Due to its hypervirulence and phenotypic resistance to commonly used antibiotics, ST11 CR-HvKP strains may cause untreatable and fatal infections in relatively healthy individuals with normal immunity.

ST11 CR-HvKP strains possess a mucoid outer layer, which enables them to stick to various materials, such as the surface of medical devices and tubing as well as other surfaces in the…

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