Streptomycin is considered to be one of the effective antibiotics for the treatment of plague. In order to investigate the streptomycin resistance of Y. pestis in China, we evaluated strep- tomycin susceptibility of 536 Y. pestis strains in China in vitro using the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) and screened streptomycin resistance-associated genes (strA and strB) by PCR method. A clinical Y. pestis isolate (S19960127) exhibited high-level resis- tance to streptomycin (the MIC was 4,096 mg/L). The strain (biovar antiqua) was isolated from a pneumonic plague outbreak in 1996 in Tibet Autonomous Region, China, belonging to the Marmota himalayana Qinghai–Tibet Plateau plague focus. In contrast to previously reported streptomycin resistance mediated by conjugative plasmids, the genome sequenc- ing and allelic replacement experiments demonstrated that an rpsL gene (ribosomal protein S12) mutation with substitution of amino-acid 43 (K43R) was responsible for the high-level resistance to streptomycin in strain S19960127, which is consistent with the mutation reported in some streptomycin-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains. Streptomycin is used as the first-line treatment against plague in many countries. The emergence of strep- tomycin resistance in Y. pestis represents a critical public health problem. So streptomycin susceptibility monitoring of Y. pestis isolates should not only include plasmid-mediated resistance but also include the ribosomal protein S12 gene (rpsL) mutation, especially when treatment failure is suspected due to antibiotic resistance.
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