Acinetobacter baumannii is recognized as an emerging bacterial pathogen because of traits such as prolonged survival in a desiccated state, effective nosocomial transmission, and an inherent ability to acquire antibiotic resistance genes. A pressing need in the field of A. baumannii research is a suitable model strain that is representative of current clinical isolates, is highly virulent in established animal models, and can be genetically manipulated. To identify a suitable strain, a genetically diverse set of recent U.S. military clinical isolates was assessed. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multiplex PCR determined the genetic diversity of 33 A. baumannii isolates. Subsequently, five representative isolates were tested in murine pulmonary and Galleria mellonella models of infection. Infections with one strain, AB5075, were considerably more severe in both animal models than those with other isolates, as there was a significant decrease in survival rates. AB5075 also caused osteomyelitis in a rat open fracture model, while another isolate did not. Additionally, a Tn5 transposon library was successfully generated in AB5075, and the insertion of exogenous genes into the AB5075 chromosome via Tn7 was completed, suggesting that this isolate may be genetically amenable for research purposes. Finally, proof-of-concept experiments with the antibiotic rifampin showed that this strain can be used in animal models to assess therapies under numerous parameters, including survival rates and lung bacterial burden. We propose that AB5075 can serve as a model strain for A. baumannii pathogenesis due to its relatively recent isolation, multidrug resistance, reproducible virulence in animal models, and genetic tractability.
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