Differential DNA accessibility to polymerase enables 30-minute phenotypic β-lactam antibiotic susceptibility testing of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

by Nathan G. Schoepp, Eric J. Liaw, Alexander Winnett, Emily S. Savela, Omai B. Garner, Rustem F. Ismagilov

The rise in carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections has created a global health emergency, underlining the critical need to develop faster diagnostics to treat swiftly and correctly. Although rapid pathogen-identification (ID) tests are being developed, gold-standard antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) remains unacceptably slow (1–2 d), and innovative approaches for rapid phenotypic ASTs for CREs are urgently needed. Motivated by this need, in this manuscript we tested the hypothesis that upon treatment with β-lactam antibiotics, susceptible Enterobacteriaceae isolates would become sufficiently permeabilized, making some of their DNA accessible to added polymerase and primers. Further, we hypothesized that this accessible DNA would be detectable directly by isothermal amplification methods that do not fully lyse bacterial cells. We build on these results to develop the polymerase-accessibility AST (pol-aAST), a new phenotypic approach for β-lactams, the major antibiotic class for gram-negative infections. We test isolates of the 3 causative pathogens of CRE infections using ceftriaxone (CRO), ertapenem (ETP), and meropenem (MEM) and demonstrate agreement with gold-standard AST. Importantly, pol-aAST correctly categorized resistant isolates that are undetectable by current genotypic methods (negative for β-lactamase genes or lacking predictive genotypes). We also test contrived and clinical urine samples. We show that the pol-aAST can be performed in 30 min sample-to-answer using contrived urine samples and has the potential to be performed directly on clinical urine specimens.

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