The incidence of trimethoprim resistance in enterobacteria causing infection in a London hospital increased from 5.6% in 1970 to 16% in 1979. The proportion of gentamicinresistant aerobic Gram-negative bacilli had risen to 6.5% by 1979. During a 5-month period in 1977, during which no epidemic was recognized, all isolates resistant to either trimethoprim, gentamicin, tobramycin or amikacin were studied. The proportion of enterobacteria resistant to both trimethoprim and gentamicin (3.8% of the total) was significantly higher than expected assuming no correlation between acquisition of resistance characters. The resistance was transferable in 23 % of trimethoprim-resistant and 76% of gentamicin-resistant strains. Trimethoprim resistance was carried by plasmids of seven different incompatibility groups and in at least four instances was part of a transposon. Gentamicin resistance was determined by plasmids of three groups - IncC, IncFII and IncW. Transposition of gentamicin resistance was not shown, though this may have been the means of evolution of the gentamicin R plasmids of IncW, which determined aminoglycoside acetyl-transferase, AAC(3). Some bacterial strains with their plasmids were endemic. There was evidence for these plasmids (i) acquiring new resistance genes by transposition, (ii) losing resistance genes by deletion and (iii) being transferred between bacterial species in the hospital.


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