Microevolution of a Mycobacteroides abscessus subsp. bolletii strain in a clinical persistent infection

Andrea Santos, Miguel Pinto, Sofia Carneiro, Sónia Silva, Irene Rodrigues, João Munhá, João Paulo Gomes, Rita Macedo

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Mycobacteroides abscessus complex (MAB), a fast-growing nontuberculous mycobacterium, is emerging as a significant infectious disease threat, due to both intrinsic and acquired resistance mechanisms to antibiotics and disinfectants and the need for extensive and multidrug regimens for treatment. Despite the prolonged regimens, outcomes are poor and persistence cases have been reported. Here, we describe clinical, microbiologic and genomic features of a M. abscessus subsp. bolletii (M. bolletii) strain consecutively isolated from a patient within an eight-year infection period. From April 2014 to September 2021, the National Reference Laboratory for Mycobacteria received eight strains isolated from a male patient. Species identification, molecular resistance profile and phenotypic drug susceptibility were determined. Five of these isolates were recovered for further in-depth genomic analysis. Genomic analysis confirmed the multidrug resistant pattern of the strain and also other genetic changes associated with adaptation to environment and defence mechanisms. We highlight the identification of new mutations in locus MAB_1881c and in locus MAB_4099c (mps1 gene), already described as associated with macrolides resistance and morphotype switching, respectively. Additionally, we also observed the emergence and fixation of a mutation in locus MAB_0364c that appeared at a frequency of 36% for the 2014 isolate, 57% for the 2015 isolate and 100% for the 2017 and 2021 isolates, clearly illustrating a fixation process underlying a microevolution of the MAB strain within the patient. Altogether these results suggest that the observed genetic alterations are a reflection of the bacterial population's continuous adaptation and survival to the host environment during infection, contributing to persistence and treatment failure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105437
Number of pages6
Journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Genomic evolution
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • Mycobacterium bolletii
  • Nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • Persistent infection


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