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Carbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales is a public health threat. Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (encoded by alleles of the bla KPC family) is one of the most common transmissible carbapenem resistance mechanisms worldwide. The dissemination of bla KPC historically has been associated with distinct K. pneumoniae lineages (clonal group 258 [CG258]), a particular plasmid family (pKpQIL), and a composite transposon (Tn4401). In the United Kingdom, bla KPC has represented a large-scale, persistent management challenge for some hospitals, particularly in North West England. The dissemination of bla KPC has evolved to be polyclonal and polyspecies, but the genetic mechanisms underpinning this evolution have not been elucidated in detail; this study used short-read whole-genome sequencing of 604 bla KPC-positive isolates (Illumina) and long-read assembly (PacBio)/polishing (Illumina) of 21 isolates for characterization. We observed the dissemination of bla KPC (predominantly bla KPC-2; 573/604 [95%] isolates) across eight species and more than 100 known sequence types. Although there was some variation at the transposon level (mostly Tn4401a, 584/604 [97%] isolates; predominantly with ATTGA-ATTGA target site duplications, 465/604 [77%] isolates), bla KPC spread appears to have been supported by highly fluid, modular exchange of larger genetic segments among plasmid populations dominated by IncFIB (580/604 isolates), IncFII (545/604 isolates), and IncR (252/604 isolates) replicons. The subset of reconstructed plasmid sequences (21 isolates, 77 plasmids) also highlighted modular exchange among non-bla KPC and bla KPC plasmids and the common presence of multiple replicons within bla KPC plasmid structures (>60%). The substantial genomic plasticity observed has important implications for our understanding of the epidemiology of transmissible carbapenem resistance in Enterobacterales for the implementation of adequate surveillance approaches and for control.

Original publication




Journal article


Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy

Publication Date





Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


TRACE Investigators’ Group, Humans, Enterobacteriaceae, Enterobacteriaceae Infections, Klebsiella Infections, Carbapenems, beta-Lactamases, Bacterial Proteins, DNA, Bacterial, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Retrospective Studies, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Genome, Bacterial, Plasmids, Molecular Epidemiology, United Kingdom, Whole Genome Sequencing