Effects of selection pressure and genetic association on the relationship between antibiotic resistance and virulence in Escherichia coli.


Antibiotic selection pressure and genetic associations may lead to the cooccurrence of resistance and virulence in individual pathogens. However, there is a lack of rigorous epidemiological evidence that demonstrates the cooccurrence of resistance and virulence at the population level. Using samples from a population-based case-control study in 25 villages in rural Ecuador, we characterized resistance to 12 antibiotics among pathogenic (n = 86) and commensal (n = 761) Escherichia coli isolates, classified by the presence or absence of known diarrheagenic virulence factor genes. The prevalences of resistance to single and multiple antibiotics were significantly higher for pathogenic isolates than for commensal isolates. Using a generalized estimating equation, antibiotic resistance was independently associated with virulence factor carriage, case status, and antibiotic use (for these respective factors: odds ratio [OR] = 3.0, with a 95% confidence interval [CI] of 1.7 to 5.1; OR = 2.0, with a 95% CI of 1.3 to 3.0; and OR = 1.5, with a 95% CI of 0.9 to 2.5). Virulence factor carriage was more strongly related to antibiotic resistance than antibiotic use for all antibiotics examined, with the exception of fluoroquinolones, gentamicin, and cefotaxime. This study provides epidemiological evidence that antibiotic resistance and virulence factor carriage are linked in E. coli populations in a community setting. Further, these data suggest that while the cooccurrence of resistance and virulence in E. coli is partially due to antibiotic selection pressure, it is also genetically determined. These findings should be considered in developing strategies for treating infections and controlling for antibiotic resistance.

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