Studies of the nature of Burkholderia cepacia in cystic fibrosis

  • Ian A. Baxter

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Burkholderia cepacia is an opportunistic pathogen that colonises of the lungs of
cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, with a frequently fatal outcome. Antibiotic resistance is
common and highly transmissible epidemic strains have been described in the UK.
37 B. cepacia isolates from clinical and botanical sources were characterised via metabolic capabilities, antibiotic sensitivity, fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles restriction digest analysis of chromosomal DNA by pulsed-gel electrophoresis (PFGE) (with the use of two separate restriction enzymes) and outer membrane protein (OMP) profiles. This revealed isolates of the UK CF epidemic strain to form a distinct group with a specific OMP profile. Cluster analysis of PFGE and FAME profiles revealed the species Burkholderia gladioli and Burkholderia vietnamiensis to be more closely related to each other and to laboratory strains of B. cepacia than to the CF epidemic strain considered a member of the latter species. The epidemic strain of B. cepacia may therefore be worthy of species definition in its own right. All the strains studied showed a high level of resistance to antibiotics, including the carbapenems.
Considering this, carbapenemase production by isolates of B. cepacia was investigated. A metallo-β-lactamase from a clinical strain of B. cepacia was isolated and partially purified of using Cibacron blue F3GA-coupled agarose. The resulting preparation showed a single band of β-lactamase activity (pI 8.45) after analytical isoelectric focusing. The enzyme was particularly effective in the hydrolysis of imipenem. Meropenem, biapenem, cephaloridine, ceftazidime, benzylpenicillin, ampicillin and carbenicillin were hydrolysed at a lower rate. An unusual inhibition profile was noted. Inhibition by the metal ion chelators ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid and o-phenanthroline was reversed by addition of zinc, indicating a metallo-enzyme, whilst >90% inhibition was attainable with 0.1mM concentrations of tazobactam and clavulanic acid. A study of 8 other clinical isolates showed an enzyme of pI 8.45 to be present and inducible by imipenem in each case. This enzyme was assigned PCM-I (Pseudomonas cepacia metalloenzyme I).
Date of AwardSept 1996
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter Lambert (Supervisor)


  • metallo-β-lactamase
  • pulsed-field gel electrophoresis
  • fatty acid
  • carbapenem
  • carbapemase

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