The objective of this study was to characterize colistin-resistant bacteria isolated from pigs on a farm in Great Britain following identification of a plasmid-borne colistin resistance mechanism in Escherichia coli from China.
Phenotypic antimicrobial susceptibility testing was undertaken by broth dilution and WGS was performed to detect the presence of genes encoding resistance and virulence. Transferable colistin resistance was investigated by conjugation.
Two E. coli and one Salmonella Typhimurium variant Copenhagen were shown to be MDR, including resistance to colistin, with one E. coli and the Salmonella carrying the mcr-1 gene; all three harboured chromosomal mutations in genes conferring colistin resistance and both E. coli harboured β-lactamase resistance. The Salmonella mcr-1 plasmid was highly similar to pHNSHP45, from China, while the E. coli mcr-1 plasmid only had the ISApII and mcr-1 genes in common. The frequency of mcr-1 plasmid transfer by conjugation to recipient Enterobacteriaceae from Salmonella was low, lying between 10−7 and 10−9 cfu/recipient cfu. We were unable to demonstrate mcr-1 plasmid transfer from the E. coli. Plasmid profiling indicated transfer of multiple plasmids from the Salmonella resulting in some MDR transconjugants.
Identification of the mcr-1 gene in Enterobacteriaceae from pigs confirms its presence in livestock in Great Britain. The results suggest dissemination of resistance through different horizontally transferable elements. The in vitro transfer of multiple plasmids carrying colistin and other resistances from the Salmonella isolate underlines the potential for wider dissemination and recombination.