This paper gives an update on the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to fluoroquinolones. The laboratory techniques currently used to determine the mechanism(s) of resistance are outlined, including the use of restriction fragment length polymorphism and single-stranded conformational polymorphism analysis of mutations in gyrA. Alterations in gyrA have continued to be the most reported cause of resistance, with high level resistance due to 2 or more mutations in this gene. Recently, mutations in gyrA of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Campylobacter jejuni have been described. Complementation studies with plasmid encoded cloned gyrB from Escherichia coli suggest that high fluoroquinolone resistance (minimum inhibitory concentration = 32 mg/L) in Salmonella typhimurium can be due to mutation in both gyrA and gyrB.
Decreased fluoroquinolone accumulation into E. coli has been shown to be due to mutations in a number of genes at different loci. Current interest has focused upon the marRAB and soxRS loci, with mutations in genes of either loci giving rise to decreased susceptibility to several unrelated drugs, including fluoroquinolones, tetracycline, chloramphenicol and some β-lactams, and decreased expression of OmpF. The genetic characterisation of fluoroquinolone efflux from Staphylococcus aureus has shown that efflux occurs in both fluoroquinolone-susceptible and -resistant bacteria. The most likely cause of resistance is overexpression of NorA, giving rise to increased efflux. Recently, 2 efflux systems in Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been proposed, MexA-MexB-OprK and MexC-MexD-OprM, conferring decreased susceptibility to fluoroquinolones, tetracycline, chloramphenicol and some β-lactams.
To date, most clinical fluoroquinolone resistance has been due to mutations in gyr A; however, with the continued increase in the use of these agents bacteria will continue to employ different tactics to evade their action. It is likely that high level fluoroquinolone resistance will emerge in previously susceptible species because of several mutations in one or several genes.