In recent years, an increase in the prevalence hypermucoviscous carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae with sequence type 25 (ST25) was detected in hospitals of Tucuman (Northwest Argentina). In this work, the virulence and the innate immune response to two K. pneumoniae ST25 strains (LABACER 01 and LABACER 27) were evaluated in a murine model after a respiratory challenge. In addition, comparative genomics was performed with K. pneumoniae LABACER01 and LABACER27 to analyze genes associated with virulence. Both LABACER01 and LABACER27 were detected in the lungs of infected mice two days after the nasal challenge, with LABACER01 counts significantly higher than those of LABACER27. Only LABACER01 was detected in hemocultures. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and albumin levels in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples were significantly higher in mice challenged with LABACER01 than in LABACER27-infected animals, indicating greater lung tissue damage. Both strains increased the levels of neutrophils, macrophages, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, KC, MCP-1, IFN-γ, and IL-17 in the respiratory tract and blood, with the effect of LABACER01 more marked than that of LABACER27. In contrast, LABACER27 induced higher levels of IL-10 in the respiratory tract than LABACER01. Genomic analysis revealed that K. pneumoniae LABACER01 and LABACER27 possess virulence factors found in other strains that have been shown to be hypervirulent, including genes required for enterobactin (entABCDEF) and salmochelin (iroDE) biosynthesis. In both strains, the genes of toxin–antitoxin systems, as well as regulators of the expression of virulence factors and adhesion genes were also detected. Studies on the genetic potential of multiresistant K. pneumoniae strains as well as their cellular and molecular interactions with the host are of fundamental importance to assess the association of certain virulence factors with the intensity of the inflammatory response. In this sense, this work explored the virulence profile based on genomic and in vivo studies of hypermucoviscous carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae ST25 strains, expanding the knowledge of the biology of the emerging ST25 clone in Argentina.
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