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A conjugative plasmid that augments virulence in Klebsiella pneumoniae


A virulence-encoding plasmid, p15WZ-82_Vir, which formed as a result of the integration of a 100-kb fragment of the hypervirulence plasmid pLVPK into a conjugative IncFIB plasmid, was recovered from a clinical Klebsiella variicola strain. Such a plasmid could be conjugated to carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella strains, enabling them to simultaneously express the carbapenem resistance- and hypervirulence-associated phenotypes. Unlike the non-conjugative pLVPK plasmid, emergence of p15WZ-82_Vir may promote rapid dissemination of virulence-encoding elements among Gram-negative bacterial pathogens.

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Fig. 1: Sequence alignment of conjugative virulence plasmid p15WZ-82_Vir and its contribution to the virulence of K. pneumoniae.

Data availability

Complete sequences of the chromosome of strain 15WZ-82, and those of the p15WZ-82_Vir, p15WZ-82_KPC and p15WZ-82_res plasmids, have been deposited with the GenBank databases under accession nos. CP032354, CP032355, CP032356 and CP032357. All other data related to this study are available upon request.


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We thank K. Chen, C. Yang and Z. Zheng from our laboratory for their help with the PFGE and animal experiments, and L. Ye and N. Dong for their assistance with the sequencing experiments. We thank K.-Y. Yuen for providing the clinical K. pneumoniae strains. This study was funded by the Collaborative Research Fund from the Research Grant Council of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (no. C5026-16G) and the Research Impact Fund (no. R5011-18F).

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Authors and Affiliations



X.Y. designed the study, performed strain characterization, sequencing, conjugation assay, greater wax moth infection model, mucoviscosity and capsule production assays and drafted the manuscript. E.W.-C.C. designed the study and edited the manuscript. R.Z. participated in study design and strain collection. S.C. designed the study, supervised the whole project and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sheng Chen.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Figs. 1–5.

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Yang, X., Wai-Chi Chan, E., Zhang, R. et al. A conjugative plasmid that augments virulence in Klebsiella pneumoniae. Nat Microbiol 4, 2039–2043 (2019).

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