The rise of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii

Benjamin A. Evans, Ahmed Hamouda, Sebastian G. B. Amyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Acinetobacter spp. are Gram-negative bacteria that have become one of the most difficult pathogens to treat. The species A. baumannii, largely unknown 30 years ago, has risen to prominence particularly because of its ability to cause infections in immunocompromised patients. It is now a predominant pathogen in many hospitals as it has acquired resistance genes to virtually all antibiotics capable of treating Gram-negative bacteria, including the fluoroquinolones and the cephalosporins. Some members of the species have accumulated these resistance genes in large resistance islands, located in a "hot-spot" within the bacterial chromosome. The only conventional remaining treatment options were the carbapenems. However, A. baumannii possesses an inherent class D β-lactamase gene (blaOXA-51-like) that can have the ability to confer carbapenem resistance. Additionally, mechanisms of carbapenem resistance have emerged that derive from the importation of the distantly related class D β-lactamase genes blaOXA-23 and blaOXA-58. Although not inducible, the expression of these genes is controlled by mobile promoters carried on ISAba elements. It has also been found that other resistance genes including the chromosomal class C β-lactamase genes conferring cephalosporin resistance are controlled in the same manner. Colistin is now considered to be the final drug capable of treating infections caused by carbapenem-resistant A. baumannii; however, strains are now being isolated that are resistant to this antibiotic as well. The increasing inability to treat infections caused by A. baumannii ensures that this pathogen more than ranks with MRSA or Clostridium difficile as a threat to modern medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-238
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Pharmaceutical Design
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Acinetobacter Infections
  • Acinetobacter baumannii
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Carbapenems
  • Colistin
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host

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