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 ~ Introduction
 ~  Materials and Me...
 ~ Results
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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 288-292

Investigation of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars and their relationship with antimicrobial resistance

1 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Changzhou Tumor Hospital Soochow University, Changzhou - 213 001; Shanghai Tuberculosis Key Laboratory, The Pulmonary Hospital of Shanghai Affiliated Tongji University, Shanghai - 200 433, China
2 Shanghai Tuberculosis Key Laboratory, The Pulmonary Hospital of Shanghai Affiliated Tongji University, Shanghai - 200 433, China
3 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Changzhou Tumor Hospital Soochow University, Changzhou - 213 001, Shanghai, China
4 Department of Oncological Medicine, Changzhou Tumor Hospital Soochow University, Changzhou - 213 001, Shanghai, China

Date of Submission10-Mar-2011
Date of Acceptance19-Apr-2011
Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2011

Correspondence Address:
Ling Yang
Department of Oncological Medicine, Changzhou Tumor Hospital Soochow University, Changzhou - 213 001, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0255-0857.83915

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 ~ Abstract 

Purpose: To develop Taqman fluorescence quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method for investigating the characteristics of the distributions of Ureaplasma urealyticum (UU) biovars and to explore the relationship between UU biovars and antimicrobial resistance. Materials and Methods: By the method of culture, Ureaplasma species were detected. Taqman fluorescence quantitative PCR for detecting UU biovars were developed and UU clinical isolates were detected to distinguish biovars. The broth micro-dilution susceptibility testing methods were used to determine UU susceptibility. Results: By Taqman PCR method, UU biovars was successfully detected. Of 126 samples, biovar 1 was found in 73 (57.94%). There was a statistical difference between genital-urinary tract infection group and asymptomatic group (P<0.05). In the region, UU biovar 1 to 9 kinds of agents kept higher susceptibility rates, but biovar 2 maintained higher susceptibility rates only to tetracyclines. Compared with biovar 1, UU biovar 2 resistance rates to 7 kinds of agents were higher (P<0.05). Conclusions: (1) Our new established Taqman PCR method is a useful tool for screening UU biovars. (2) UU biovar 1 predominated in asymptomatic population; whereas in genital-urinary tract infection population UU biovar 2 had a higher proportion. (3) The characteristics of drug resistance were different between UU biovars. Overall, both two biovars remained higher susceptibility rates to tetracyclines. A majority of biovor 1 strains were sensitive to macrolides and quinolones; while only a small number of biovar 2 strains kept sensitive to roxithromycin and quinolones, a large proportion of biovar 2 strains were found in intermediate ranges.

Keywords: Antimicrobial susceptibility; biovar; Taqman fluorescence quantitative PCR; Ureaplasma urealyticum.

How to cite this article:
Chang-tai Z, Zhong-yi H, Chun-lei D, Chang-song Z, Mei-zhen W, Yang L. Investigation of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars and their relationship with antimicrobial resistance. Indian J Med Microbiol 2011;29:288-92

How to cite this URL:
Chang-tai Z, Zhong-yi H, Chun-lei D, Chang-song Z, Mei-zhen W, Yang L. Investigation of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars and their relationship with antimicrobial resistance. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Jan 15];29:288-92. Available from:

 ~ Introduction Top

 Ureaplasma urealyticum Scientific Name Search which belongs to genus Ureaplasma, can produce urease, IgA protease and phospholipase enzymes [1] and colonize through the adhesion of respiratory tract or urinary tract epithelial cell surface receptors. [2] Due to lack of cell wall, UU resists penicillin naturally. Presently, U urealyticum is divided into two biovars-biovar 1, Ureaplasma Parvum, parvo and biovar 2, Ureaplasma urealyticum, T960, a total of 14 serovars. [3] Previous studies confirmed that U urealyticum is involved in various diseases including non-gonococcal urethritis, [4] prostatitis, [5] testicular inflammation, [6] urinary stones, [7] gynecological diseases, [8] infertility, [9] neonatal pneumonia, [10],[11],[12] and neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. [13] Recent studies showed that U urealyticum biovars were associated with its clinical pathogenicity. However, it is unknown what the relationship between U urealyticum biovars and antimicrobial resistance is. This study aims to investigate the distribution of UU biovars, and further to explore the relationship of U urealyticum biovars with antimicrobial resistance.

 ~ Materials and Methods Top

Collection of clinical specimens and Ureaplasma urealyticum identification

The important criterion for inclusion was that the participants should not have taken any antibiotics in the past 7 days. In females, the experimental specimens were consecutively collected from cervix epithelial cells with sterile swabs; and in males, from urethral secretions. By the method of culture, we checked the samples of 389 patients attending the Department of Sexually Transmitted Disease and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for treatment or physical check-up between January 1, 2009 and June 1, 2010. Finally, 126 cases including 79 females and 47 males were confirmed to be U urealyticum positive. Based on whether genital-urinary tract infections or not, the 126 cases were divided into two groups--the genital-urinary tract infection group (55 cases) and the asymptomatic group (71 cases). All these patients were treated in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration on the participation of human subjects in medical research. The study was approved by the Bioethics Committee, Soochow University and a written informed consent was obtained from each of participants.

Standard strains

U urealyticum serovar 1-14, ATCC27813-27826 were taken as experimental quality control standard strains. The strains were kindly provided by the Capital Institute of Pediatrics, Beijing, China.

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Ureaplasma urealyticum species

Kits were kindly provided by Lizhu Bio-Company (Zhuhai, China) and Bio-Merieux (Marcy-I'Etoile, France). The collected swabs were inoculated in liquid broth mediums at 37°C for 48 hours. According to the kit instruction manual, antimicrobial susceptibility testing was carried out. In brief, the inoculated R1 medium was vortexed rapidly and 3 ml was added to the growth R2 medium, containing 1 ml broth. After reconstitution and mixing, 50 μL was dispensed into each of the 22 test wells on the strip. Two drops of mineral oil were added to each well. The inoculated strips were then incubated at 37°C and observed for the results at 24 and 48 hours. Due to an increase in pH caused by UU growth, an indicator (phenol red) in media could display a color change. According to the guidelines of the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), the results of resistance or susceptibility to antimicrobial agents were judged. The CLSI breakpoints for the antimicrobials are as follows (mg/L): [14] Doxycycline (DOX) S ≤ 4, R ≥ 8; minocycline (MIN) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4; josamycin (JOS) S ≤ 2, R ≥ 8; roxithromycin (ROX) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4; clarithromycin (CLA) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4; azithromycin (AZI) S ≤ 0.12, R ≥ 4; ofloxacin (OFL) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4; levofloxacin (LEV) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4; sparfloxacin (SPA) S ≤ 1, R ≥ 4.

Deoxyribonucleic acid extraction

Swabs collected from the participants, with 400 μl sterile saline, were centrifuged at 15,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) for 5 minutes, and discharged the supernatant; precipitated by adding 50 μl lysis (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid - EDTA 0.05 M, sodium hydroxide - NaOH 0.05 M, Triton 1.0% (V/V), Tris - Hydrochloride (pH 8.0) 10 mmol/L), mixed and heated at 100°C for 10~15 minutes, centrifuged at 15,000 rpm for 5 min.

Detection of ureaplasma urealyticum biovars

Detection of UU biovar were performed by Taqman fluorescence quantitative PCR. After retrieving UU1-14 multiple banded antigen (MBA) sequences on the NCBI, by DNAman software (Lynnon Biosoft Company, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec Canada), multiple sequences alignment was performed. After finding out conserved and specific biovar sequence, primers and Taqman probes for detecting UU biovars were designed using Primer Express 3.0 software. Primers and Taqman probes for detecting UU biovar 1: F:5' -ACATCAG(T/C)TGAAAACAAAACAG-3' ; R: 5' -GTTTTGGTTCACGAGGTAAT-3' ; Probe: 5' -FAM-AAAAGGTCATTTG(G/A)TTGGTG AAAAA-TAMRA-3' . Primers and Taqman probes for detecting UU biovar 2: F: 5' - CACTTACTTAACAA(A/G)AAAATC(T/C)ACGT - 3 ' ; R:5' -GCAGTTTTTAGT AA(T/G)CCACCTT-3' ; Probe: 5' -FAM-AAATT ACCACGTGAACCAAA AG CTAAA-TAMRA -3' .

Taqman fluorescence quantitative PCR buffer system for biovar 1: 25 μl reaction system contained 2.5 U Taq enzyme, Mg2+ 2.5 mmol/L, each of the upstream and downstream primers 0.1 pmol/L, Taqman probe 0.2 pmol/L, the template DNA 2 μl. Optimum buffer system of biovar: 25 μl reaction system contains: 2.5 U Taq enzymes, Mg2+ 2.5 mmol/L, each of the upstream and downstream primers 0.2 pmol/L, Taqman probe 0.3 pmol/L, the template DNA 2 μl. PCR reaction conditions: step l: 95°C, 2 min; step 2: 95°C, 10 s; 55°C (detection point of fluorescent signal), 20s, 40cycles. The instrument used iCycler iQ™. Real-Time PCR Detection System manufactured by Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (Hercules, California USA).

To verify the reliability of the method, all the standard strains available (serovar 1-14) were assayed with both the biovar specific primers and probes, the positive and negative controls were set in the experiments. In addition, 1.0Χ10 1-8 copies/ml U urealyticum nucleic acid was detected to determine the linear range and sensitivity.


The data were analyzed by Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 11.5. Comparison among the rates of multiple rows used contingency table chi-square test.

 ~ Results Top

Detection of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars

urealyticum serotypes 1, 3, 6 and 14 were successfully detected using biovar 1 primers and probe; meanwhile, all the other serotypes could be identified with biovar 2 primers and probe. The results of the controls were acceptable. Within 1.0Χ10 3-8 copies/ml, the method showed a good linear relationship between gradient diluted concentration and the cycle threshold (CT) value. Minimum detection limit for two biovars was 100-200 copies/ml.

The results of biovars tests showed that overall biovar 1 slightly predominated in the region [Table 1]. There was no difference between genders in the distributions of UU biovars (P>0.05); whereas UU biovars had a statistical difference between genital-urinary tract infection group and asymptomatic group and the former was higher in the distribution of U urealyticum biovar 2 (P<0.05).
Table 1: Distribution of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars in 126 cases during the cases

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The relationship between ureaplasma urealyticum biovars and antimicrobial susceptibilities

urealyticum biovars susceptibilities to 9 antimicrobial agents were shown in [Table 2]. In the region, UU biovar 1 to 9 kinds of antimicrobial agents kept higher susceptibility rates (above 90%); but biovar 2 maintained higher susceptibility rates only to DOX and MIN (above 95%), and the remaining were less than 80%. Compared with biovar 1, the resistance rates of UU biovar 2 to JOS, AZI, ROX, CLA, OFL, LEV and SPA were higher (P<0.05); while to DOX and MIN the differences in the resistance rates between the two biovars were not statistically significant (P>0.05).
Table 2: Comparison of antimicrobial susceptibilities between Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars during the study

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 ~ Discussion Top

Detection of ureaplasma urealyticum biovars

At present, it is accepted widely that U urealyticum is divided into two groups (Ureaplasma Parvum, biovar 1, parvo) and (Ureaplasma urealyticum, biovar 2, T960) including a total of 14 serotypes, biovar 1 included serotypes 1, 3, 6 and 14, and the remaining 10 serotypes belonged to biovar 2. At present, the target sequences that can detect UU biovar include: MBA genes, [15] 16SrRNA, [16] 16S-23S Ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) gene spacer region [17] and urease gene. [18] MBA is one of the major antigens that may be an important virulence factor with species-specific. [15] MBA genes have about 1,200 coding gene bases transcripting 409 amino acid residues. 1/3 of N terminal of MBA genes is a conservative area, which can be taken as biovar sequence tags. This study took UU MBA genes as the target sequences of detecting UU biovar. Via the multiple sequences alignment of UU MBA genes, we found that two biovars reveal distinctly different classifications. The results showed that our new established Taqman fluorescent PCR method for detecting UU biovars, which had a wide linear dynamic range, high sensitivity and specificity, could be used to quickly test UU biovars.

Previous studies showed that U urealyticum biovars were associated with pathogenicity. [19],[20] A study confirmed that biovar 2 was more associated with the loss of lactobacilli in women than biovar 1, indicating that biovar 2 was more likely to cause vagina infection. [20] This study demonstrated that U urealyticum biovar 2 occurrence in genital-urinary infection group was 58.18% (32/55), which was higher than that in asymptomatic group (29.58%, 21/71), indicating that UU biovar 2 may be more closely related to genital-urinary tract infectious diseases, that biovar 1 seems to be inclined to colonize in urogenital tract and doesn't cause noticeable symptoms. However, according to our investigation, genders don't exert influence on the distributions of U urealyticum biovars.

The relationship between Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars and antimicrobial susceptibilities

Currently, tetracyclines including MIN and DOX, quinolones including OFL, LEV and SPA, and macrolides including AZI, JOS, CLA and ROX are commonly used to the clinical treatment for Mycoplasma infections. It is upset that some UU strains have produced drug resistance to the above drugs. Mechanisms of drug resistance of UU are more complex. Blocking the synthesis of Mycoplasma protein peptide chain at the step of extension is tetracyclines mechanism against U urealyticum. But the study found that, by transposon Tn916, U urealyticum can capture exotic tetm genes from other microorganisms encoding the resistance to tetracyclines and form resistance. [22] Macrolides can bind with UU ribosome and inhibit protein synthesis, but macrolides also may be used as the inducer of methylase, which causes the methylation of the large 50S ribosomal subunit, resulting in UU resistance to macrolides. [23],[24] Previous study suggested that UU resistance to quinolone is mainly due to the mutants of target enzyme-DAN helicase, [25] which is a topoisomerase ‡U, including two subunits (A, B subunits) that were encoded by the gyrA and gyrB respectively. Of which, the residues 68 to 107 areas are the quinolone-resistant areas (quinolones regions of drug-resistance, QRDR).

Presently, a higher U urealyticum infection rate was found in STD population in this region. At the same time, there had a certain proportions of multiple drug resistant U urealyticum clinical isolates. However, our study confirmed U urealyticum resistance to drugs was uneven, being subjected to biovars. In the region, UU biovar 1 to other 9 kinds of antimicrobial agents kept high sensitivity rates (above 90%); but biovar 2, only to doxycycline and minocycline, maintained higher sensitivities (above 95%), and the remaining were less than 80%. In fact, only a small number of biovar 2 strains were sensitive to ROX, OFL, LEV and SPA and most of them were found in intermediate results. Compared with biovar 1, UU biovar 2 resistance rates to JOS, AZI, CLA, ROX, OFL, LEV and SPA were higher; and to DOX and MIN resistance rates, did not showed the significant differences. Overall, both of the U urealyticum biovars remained higher sensitivity rates to tetracyclines, UU biovar 2 was more resistant to macrolides and quinolones. The reason why the differences in the drugs resistance between the two UU biovars emerge was unknown. However, we postulated that the patients infected by UU biovar 2 were more likely to have the chance to use antibiotics for emerging clinical symptoms, resulting in increasing resistances in biovar 2.

Finally, based on the difference in genetics, pathogenicity and antimicrobial susceptibilities, we strongly propose that the two U urealyticum biovars should be reclassified into two species-Ureaplasma Parvum and Ureaplasma T960, the classification of which seems to get closer to the fact.

 ~ References Top

1.DeSilva NS, Quinn PA. Characterization of phospholipase A1, A2, C activity in Ureaplasma urealyticum membranes. Mol Cell Biochem 1999;201:159-67.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Smith DG, Russell WC, Thirkell D. Adherence of Ureaplasma urealyticum to human epithelial cells. Microbiology 1994;140:2893-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Robertson JA, Stemke GW, Davis JW Jr, Harasawa R, Thirkell D, Kong F, et al. Proposal of Ureaplasma parvum sp. nov. and emended description of Ureaplasma urealyticum (Shepard et al. 1974) Robertson et al. 2001. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 2002;52:587-97.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Couldwell DL, Gidding HF, Freedman EV, McKechnie ML, Biggs K, Sintchenko V, et al. Ureaplasma urealyticum is significantly associated with non-gonococcal urethritis in heterosexual Sydney men. Int J STD AIDS 2010;21:337-41.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Radonic A, Kovacevic V, Markotic A, Skerk V, Turcic P. The clinical significance of Ureaplasma urealyticum in chronic prostatitis. J Chemother 2009;21:465-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Malewa E, Dimitrowa C. Experimental orchitis in white rats, caused by Ureaplasma urealyticum. Zentralbl Allg Pathol 1983;128:391-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Dewan B, Sharma M, Nayak N, Sharma SK. Upper urinary tract stones and Ureaplasma urealyticum. Indian J Med Res 1997;105:15-21.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Potts JM, Ward AM, Rackley RR. Association of chronic urinary symptoms in women and Ureaplasma urealyticum. Urology 2000;55:486-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Taylor-Robinson D. Evaluation of the role of Ureaplasma urealyticum in infertility. Pediatr Infect Dis 1986;5:262-5.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Agarwal P, Rajadurai VS, Pradeepkumar VK, Tan KW. Ureaplasma urealyticum and its association with chronic lung disease in Asian neonates. J Paediatr Child Health 2000;36:487-90.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Prajs-Philippe N, Tiprez-Chocoloff C, Lucidarme-Rossi S, Massard A, Wassouf N, Theret B. Ureaplasma urealyticum respiratory infection in newborn infants. Arch Pediatr 2000;7:168-72.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Skevaki C, Kafetzis DA. Ureaplasma urealyticum airway colonization and pulmonary outcome in neonates. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther 2003;1:183-91.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Cultrera R, Seraceni S, Germani R, Contini C. Molecular evidence of Ureaplasma urealyticum and Ureaplasma parvum colonization in preterm infants during respiratory distress syndrome. BMC Infect Dis 2006;6:166.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Kechagia N, Bersimis S, Chatzipanagiotou S. Incidence and antimicrobial susceptibilities of genital mycoplasmas in outpatient women with clinical vaginitis in Athens, Greece. J Antimicrob Chemother 2008;62:122-5.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Kong F, Zhu X, Wang W, Zhou X, Gordon S, Gilbert GL. Comparative analysis and serovar-specific identification of multiple-banded antigen genes of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovar 1. J Clin Microbiol 1999;37:538-43.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Robertson JA, Vekris A, Bebear C, Stemke GW. Polymerase chain reaction using 16S rRNA gene sequences distinguishes the two biovars of Ureaplasma urealyticum. J Clin Microbiol 1993;31:824-30.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Harasawa R, Mizusawa H, Nozawa K, Nakagawa T, Asada K, Kato I. Detection and tentative identification of dominant mycoplasma species in cell cultures by restriction analysis of the 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer regions. Res Microbiol 1993;144:489-93.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Blanchard A. Ureaplasma urealyticum urease genes; use of a UGA tryptophan codon. Mol Microbiol 1990;4:669-76.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Yokoi S, Maeda S, Kubota Y, Tamaki M, Mizutani K, Yasuda M, et al. The role of Mycoplasma genitalium and Ureaplasma urealyticum biovar 2 in postgonococcal urethritis. Clin Infect Dis 2007;45:866-71.   Back to cited text no. 19
20.Chua KB, Ngeow YF, Lim CT. Relationship of Ureaplasma urealyticum biovars to the presence or absence of bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women and to the time of delivery. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2001;20:65-7.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Domingues D, Tavira LT, Duarte A, Sanca A, Prieto E, Exposto F. Ureaplasma urealyticum biovar determination in women attending a family planning clinic in Guiné-Bissau, using polymerase chain reaction of the multiple-banded antigen gene. J Clin Lab Anal 2002;16:71-5.  Back to cited text no. 21 Barbeyrac B, Dupon M, Rodriguez P, Renaudin H, Bebear C. A Tn1545-like transposon carries the tet(M) gene in tetracycline resistant strains of Bacteroides ureolyticus as well as Ureaplasma urealyticum but not Neisseria gonorrhoeae. J Antimicrob Chemother 1996;37:223-32.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Felmingham D, Robbins MJ, Sanghrajka M, Leakey A, Ridgway GL. The in vitro activity of some 14-, 15- and 16- membered macrolides against Staphylococcus spp., Legionella spp., Mycoplasma spp. and Ureaplasma urealyticum. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1991;17:91-9.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.Bebear CM, Pereyre S. Mechanisms of drug resistance in Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Curr Drug Targets Infect Disord 2005;5:263-71.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Zhang W, Wu Y, Yin W, Yu M. Study of isolation of fluoroquinolone-resistant Ureaplasma urealyticum and identification of mutant sites. Chin Med J (Engl) 2002;115:1573-5.  Back to cited text no. 25


  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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