Detection of bacteriophage particles containing antibiotic resistance genes in the sputum of cystic fibrosis patients

Maryury Brown-Jaque, Lirain Rodriguez Oyarzun, Thais Cornejo-Sánchez, Maria T. Martín-Gómez, Silvia Gartner, Javier de Gracia, Sandra Rovira, Antonio Alvarez, Joan Jofre, Juan J. González-López, Maite Muniesa

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© 2018 Brown-Jaque, Rodriguez Oyarzun, Cornejo-Sánchez, Martín-Gómez, Gartner, de Gracia, Rovira, Alvarez, Jofre, González-López and Muniesa. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a chronic disease in which the bacterial colonization of the lung is linked to an excessive inflammatory response that leads to respiratory failure. The microbiology of CF is complex. Staphylococcus aureus is the first bacterium to colonize the lungs in 30% of pediatric CF patients, and 80% of adult patients develop a chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, but other microorganisms can also be found. The use of antibiotics is essential to treat the disease, but antibiotic performance is compromised by resistance mechanisms. Among various mechanisms of transfer of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), the recently been reported bacteriophages are the least explored in clinical settings. To determine the role of phages in CF as mobile genetic elements (MGEs) carrying ARGs, we evaluated their presence in 71 CF patients. 71 sputum samples taken from these patients were screened for eight ARGs (blaTEM, blaCTX-M-1-group, blaCTX-M-9-group, blaOXA-48, blaVIM, mecA, qnrA, and qnrS) in the bacteriophage DNA fraction. The phages found were also purified and observed by electron microscopy. 32.4% of CF patients harbored ARGs in phage DNA. β-lactamase genes, particularly blaVIM and blaTEM, were the most prevalent and abundant, whereas mecA, qnrA, and qnrS were very rare. Siphoviridae phage particles capable of infecting P. aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae were detected in CF sputum. Phage particles harboring ARGs were found to be abundant in the lungs of both CF patients and healthy individuals and could contribute to the colonization of multiresistant strains.
Original languageEnglish
Article number856
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Bacteriophages
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Sputum


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