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Volume 49, Number 1, February 2016

Quantification and comparison of virulence and characteristics of different variants of carbapenemase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae clinical isolates from Taiwan and the United States 

Tsung-Ta Chiang, Ya-Sung Yang, Kuo-Ming Yeh, Sun-Kang Chiu, Ning-Chi Wang, Te-Yu Lin, Li-Yueh Huang, Feng-Yee Chang, L.K. Siu, Jung-Chung Lin, Jiun-Han Chen


Corresponding author:

Jiun-Han Chen
Corresponding author. Department of Medical Laboratory Science and Biotechnology, Yuanpei University of Medical Technology, Number 306, Yuanpei Street, Hsinchu 30015, Taiwan. 


Background and purpose: 

The emergence of Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC)-producing strains is a challenge for clinicians. The characteristics and virulence of variants of KPC-producing K. pneumoniae isolates were evaluated. 



Five clinical isolates—three KPC subtypes from Taiwan (KPC2-TW, KPC3-TW, and KPC17-TW) and two clinical strains from the United States (US; KPC2-US, KPC3-US)—were included. Virulent traits and capsular serotypes were analyzed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Serum killing, neutrophil phagocytosis, and mice lethargy studies were performed to evaluate virulence. 



Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) demonstrated that KPC2-TW and KPC17-TW belonged to sequence type (ST)11, and KPC2-US, KPC3-US, and KPC3-TW to ST258. KPC3-TW expressed capsular serotype K1, whereas the others were non-K1/K2/K5 isolates. MLST analysis indicated that ST11 strains were serum resistant, whereas ST258 isolates were serum sensitive. ST11 isolates exhibited significantly higher 15-minute phagocytic rates than ST258 isolates (70.28 ± 16.68% vs. 34.88 ± 10.52%, p < 0.001). The capsular serotype K1 strain was more resistant to neutrophil phagocytosis than non-K1/K2/K5 isolates (27.1 ± 10.23% vs. 54.46 ± 20.94%, p = 0.050). All KPC-producing strain variants from Taiwan and the US demonstrated less virulence in a mouse lethality study, where the LD50 ranged from approximately 106 colony-forming units (CFU) to >107 CFU. Immunological responses were not significantly correlated with KPC subtype; however, responses were associated with MLST and capsular serotype.



Production of KPC itself was not associated with increased virulence despite different variants of KPC. The ST11 KPC-producing strain was resistant to serum killing, whereas capsular ss K1 was associated with resistance to neutrophil phagocytosis. 


Key words:

Klebsiella pneumoniae, KPC variants, virulence