Acinetobacter baumannii maintains its virulence after long-time starvation

Itziar Chapartegui-González, María Lázaro-Díez, Zaloa Bravo, Jesús Navas, José M. Icardo, José Ramos-Vivas

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69 Scopus citations


Acinetobacter baumannii is a cause of healthcare-associated infections. Although A. baumannii is an opportunistic pathogen, its infections are notoriously difficult to treat due to intrinsic and acquired antimicrobial resistance, often limiting effective therapeutic options. A. baumannii can survive for long periods in the hospital environment, particularly on inanimate surfaces. Such environments may act as a reservoir for cross-colonization and infection outbreaks and should be considered a substantial factor in infection control practices. Moreover, clothing of healthcare personnel and gadgets may play a role in the spread of nosocomial bacteria. A link between contamination of hospital surfaces and A. baumannii infections or between its persistence in the environment and its virulence has not yet been established. Bacteria under stress (i.e., long-term desiccation in hospital setting) could conserve factors that favor infection. To investigate whether desiccation and/or starvation may be involved in the ability of certain strains of A. baumannii to retain virulence factors, we have studied five well-characterized clinical isolates of A. baumannii for which survival times were determined under simulated hospital conditions. Despite a considerable reduction in the culturability over time (up to 88% depending on strain and the condition tested), some A. baumannii strains were able to maintain their ability to form biofilms after rehydration, addition of nutrients, and changing temperature. Also, after long-term desiccation, several clinical strains were able to grow in the presence of non-immune human serum as fine as their non-stressed homologs. Furthermore, we also show that the ability of bacterial strains to kill Galleria mellonella larvae does not change although A. baumannii cells were stressed by long-term starvation (up to 60 days). This means that A. baumannii can undergo a rapid adaptation to both the temperature shift and nutrients availability, conditions that can be easily found by bacteria in a new patient in the hospital setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0201961
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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