Volume 17, Number 6—June 2011
Macrolide Resistance–associated 23S rRNA Mutation in Mycoplasma genitalium, Japan
To the Editor: Mycoplasma genitalium is now recognized as a serious pathogen in sexually transmitted infections (1,2). Azithromycin regimens have been commonly used for treatment of M. genitalium infections (3). However, failure of azithromycin treatment has been reported in cases of M. genitalium–positive nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) (4,5), and macrolide-resistant strains of M. genitalium have been isolated from case-patients in Australia, Sweden, and Norway for whom azithromycin treatment has failed (4,5). In these strains, mutations in the 23S rRNA gene were associated with macrolide resistance, and mutations in ribosomal protein genes L4 and L22 were also found (5). Surveillance for antimicrobial resistance of M. genitalium is essential to identify antimicrobial resistant strains and to then determine appropriate treatment. Coculture of patient specimens with Vero cells has improved the primary isolation rate of M. genitalium from clinical specimens and offered some current clinical strains for antimicrobial drug susceptibility testing (6). To determine their antimicrobial susceptibilities, a molecular real-time PCR method has been developed (7,8). However, isolating M. genitalium from clinical specimens and antimicrobial drug susceptibility testing of clinical isolates remain labor-intensive, time-consuming tasks. In addition, no methods are available to directly determine antimicrobial drug susceptibilities of M. genitalium in clinical specimens. To monitor macrolide susceptibilities in clinical strains of M. genitalium in Japan, therefore, we examined M. genitalium DNA found in the urine of men with NGU for the presence of macrolide resistance–associated mutations in the 23S rRNA gene and the ribosomal protein genes L4 and L22.
This retrospective study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Graduate School of Medicine, Gifu University, Gifu, Japan. We collected pretreatment urine specimens from 308 men with NGU who had visited a urologic clinic (iClinic) in Sendai, Japan, during 2006 through 2008 and stored the specimens at –70°C. Each man gave informed consent. Twenty-five of 58 urine specimens confirmed to be positive for M. genitalium by PCR-based assay were randomly chosen for this study and subjected to DNA purification. The 23S rRNA gene and the ribosomal proteins genes L4 and L22 of M. genitalium were amplified from the purified DNA by PCR as reported previously and then sequenced (5).
In 1 specimen, we found an A-to-G transition at nucleotide position 2072 in the 23S rRNA gene of M. genitalium, corresponding to position 2059 in Escherichia coli (Table). An A2059 (E. coli numbering) residue in region V of the 23S rRNA gene is critical for the binding of macrolides (9). Mutations of A2058, A2059, and other 23S rRNA residues within the macrolide-binding site can confer a high-level resistance to macrolides in several bacterial species, including M. genitalium (5,9). Therefore, M. genitalium strains that harbor the A2059G (E. coli numbering) mutation in the 23S rRNA gene could be highly macrolide resistant. We also found a T-to-G transition at nucleotide position 2199 in the 23S rRNA gene of M. genitalium, corresponding to position 2185 in E. coli, in 3 specimens, but this mutation has not been associated with macrolide resistance in other bacterial species (9).
We found amino acid changes in L4 and L22 ribosomal proteins in M. genitalium in 9 specimens. L4 and L22 ribosomal proteins each have extended loops, which converge to form a narrowing in the exit tunnel adjacent to the macrolide-binding site (10). Therefore, macrolide resistance–associated missense mutations in L4 and L22 tend to be localized to Gln62–Gly66 in L4 and Arg88-Ala93 in L22 of E. coli, which are closest to the macrolide-binding site (10). All of the amino acid changes in L4 of M. genitalium found in this study corresponded to those at the downstream regions from Gln62-Gly66 in L4 of E. coli. Of the amino acid changes in L22 of M. genitalium, the only Gly93Glu change found in M. genitalium harboring the A2059G (E. coli numbering) mutation in the 23S rRNA gene was located within the region corresponding to Arg88-Ala93 in L22 of E. coli. In this strain, therefore, the Gly93Glu change in L22 might contribute to the increase of macrolide resistance. The patient with NGU, whose specimen exhibited this strain of M. genitalium that harbored both the A2059G (E. coli numbering) mutation in the 23S rRNA gene and in which the Gly93Glu change in L22 was detected, was given a single dose of 1 g azithromycin and was clinically cured of NGU. However, the present study suggests that M. genitalium strains with high-level macrolide resistance might have already emerged in clinical settings in Japan. The emergence and spread of such a clinical mutant could threaten the ability of macrolides to treat M. genitalium infections. We should continue monitoring macrolide resistance of M. genitalium clinical strains. The nonculture approach used in our study will be useful until culturing of mycoplasmas from clinical specimens and antimicrobial drug susceptibility testing can be performed easily in laboratories.
This study was supported in part by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan, under a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, (C) 22591788.
- Deguchi T, Maeda S. Mycoplasma genitalium: another important pathogen of nongonococcal urethritis. J Urol. 2002;167:1210–7.
- Jensen JS. Mycoplasma genitalium: the aetiological agent of urethritis and other sexually transmitted diseases. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2004;18:1–11.
- Mena LA, Mroczkowski TF, Nsuami M, Martin DH. A randomized comparison of azithromycin and doxycycline for the treatment of Mycoplasma genitalium–positive urethritis in men. Clin Infect Dis. 2009;48:1649–54.
- Bradshaw CS, Jensen JS, Tabrizi SN, Read TR, Garland SM, Hopkins CA, Azithromycin failure in Mycoplasma genitalium urethritis. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12:1149–52.
- Jensen JS, Bradshaw CS, Tabrizi SN, Fairley CK, Hamasuna R. Azithromycin treatment failure in Mycoplasma genitalium–positive patients with nongonococcal urethritis is associated with induced macrolide resistance. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;47:1546–53.
- Jensen JS, Hansen HT, Lind K. Isolation of Mycoplasma genitalium strains from the male urethra. J Clin Microbiol. 1996;34:286–91.
- Hamasuna R, Osada Y, Jensen JS. Antibiotic susceptibility testing of Mycoplasma genitalium by TaqMan 5′ nuclease real-time PCR. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005;49:4993–8.
- Hamasuna R, Jensen JS, Osada Y. Antimicrobial susceptibilities of Mycoplasma genitalium strains examined by broth dilution and quantitative PCR. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009;53:4938–9.
- Vester B, Douthwaite S. Macrolide resistance conferred by base substitutions in 23S rRNA. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2001;45:1–12.
- Diner EJ, Hayes CS. Recombineering reveals a diverse collection of ribosomal proteins L4 and L22 that confer resistance to macrolide antibiotics. J Mol Biol. 2009;386:300–15.
Suggested citation for this article: Shimada Y, Deguchi T, Nakane K, Yasuda M, Yokoi S, Ito S-I, et al. Macrolide resistance–associated 23S rRNA mutation in Mycoplasma genitalium, Japan [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jun [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1706.101055
- Page created: August 03, 2011
- Page last updated: August 03, 2011
- Page last reviewed: August 03, 2011
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Office of the Director (OD)