Amplification of aminoglycoside resistance gene aphA1 in Acinetobacter baumannii results in tobramycin therapy failure

Patrick McGann*, Patrice Courvalin, Erik Snesrud, Robert J. Clifford, Eun Jeong Yoon, Fatma Onmus-Leone, Ana C. Ong, Yoon I. Kwak, Catherine Grillot-Courvalin, Emil Lesho, Paige E. Waterman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Gene amplification is believed to play an important role in antibiotic resistance but has been rarely documented in clinical settings because of its unstable nature. We report a rise in MICs from 0.5 to 16 μg/ml in successive Acinetobacter baumannii isolated over 4 days from a patient being treated with tobramycin for an infection by multidrug-resistant A. baumannii, resulting in therapeutic failure. Isolates were characterized by whole-genome sequencing, real-time and reverse transcriptase PCR, and growth assays to determine the mechanism of tobramycin resistance and its fitness cost. Tobramycin resistance was associated with two amplification events of different chromosomal fragments containing the aphA1 aminoglycoside resistance gene part of transposon Tn6020. The first amplification event involved low amplification (6 to 10 copies) of a large DNA fragment that was unstable and conferred tobramycin MICs of ≤8 μg/ml. The second event involved moderate (10 to 30 copies) or high (40 to 110 copies) amplification of Tn6020. High copy numbers were associated with tobramycin MICs of 16 μg/ml, impaired fitness, and genetic instability, whereas lower copy numbers resulted in tobramycin MICs of ≤8 μg/ml and no fitness cost and were stably maintained in vitro. Exposure in vitro to tobramycin of the initial susceptible isolate and of the A. baumannii AB0057 reference strain led to similar aphA1 amplifications and elevated tobramycin MICs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of in vivo development of antibiotic resistance secondary to gene amplifications resulting in therapy failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00915-14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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