Evaluating the role of Burkholderia pseudomallei K96243 toxins BPSS0390, BPSS0395, and BPSS1584 in persistent infection

Brittany N. Ross, Sofiya Micheva-Viteva, Elizabeth Hong-Geller, Alfredo G. Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a disease with a mortality rate of up to 40% even with treatment. Despite the ability of certain antibiotics to control initial infection, relapse occurs in treated patients. The inability of antibiotics to clear this bacterial infection is in part due to persistence, an evasion mechanism against antibiotics and the effect of host defenses. Evaluation of antibiotic efficacy against B. pseudomallei revealed that up to 48% of in vitro grown populations can survive in a persister state. Toxin–antitoxin (TA) systems have been previously implicated in modulating bacterial persistence. We generated three isogenic TA mutants and found that loss of each toxin gene did not alter antibiotic persistence or macrophage survival. In response to macrophage-induced persistence, all three toxin mutants demonstrated increased intracellular susceptibility to levofloxacin which in part was due to the inability of the mutants to induce persistence after nitric oxide or nutrient starvation. In an inhalational model of murine melioidosis, both ΔBPSS0395 and ΔBPSS1584 strains were attenuated, and treatment with levofloxacin led to significant reduction in lung colonisation and reduced splenic colonisation by ΔBPSS0395. Based on our findings, these toxins deserve additional evaluation as putative therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13096
JournalCellular Microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Burkholderia
  • antibiotic resistance
  • chronic infection
  • persistence
  • toxin–antitoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Virology


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