Immunosuppression broadens evolutionary pathways to drug resistance and treatment failure during Acinetobacter baumannii pneumonia in mice
Wenwen Huo, Lindsay M. Busch, Juan Hernandez-Bird, Efrat Hamami, Christopher W. Marshall, Edward Geisinger, Vaughn S. Cooper, Tim van Opijnen, Jason W. Rosch & Ralph R. Isberg
Acinetobacter baumannii is increasingly refractory to antibiotic treatment in healthcare settings. As is true of most human pathogens, the genetic path to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the role that the immune system plays in modulating AMR during disease are poorly understood. Here we reproduced several routes to fluoroquinolone resistance, performing evolution experiments using sequential lung infections in mice that are replete with or depleted of neutrophils, providing two key insights into the evolution of drug resistance. First, neutropenic hosts acted as reservoirs for the accumulation of drug resistance during drug treatment. Selection for variants with altered drug sensitivity profiles arose readily in the absence of neutrophils, while immunocompetent animals restricted the appearance of these variants. Secondly, antibiotic treatment failure in the immunocompromised host was shown to occur without clinically defined resistance, an unexpected result that provides a model for how antibiotic failure occurs clinically in the absence of AMR. The genetic mechanism underlying both these results is initiated by mutations activating the drug egress pump regulator AdeL, which drives persistence in the presence of antibiotic. Therefore, antibiotic persistence mutations present a two-pronged risk during disease, causing drug treatment failure in the immunocompromised host while simultaneously increasing the emergence of high-level AMR.