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Clinical and genomic characterization of hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae (hvKp) infections via passive surveillance in Southern California, 2020–2022


Hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae (hvKp) is more invasive and virulent than classical K. pneumoniae, and requires specialized treatment. To raise clinical awareness, this study determined the prevalence, clinical characteristics, and genomic epidemiology of hvKp infections in Southern California (SoCal) by conducting a passive surveillance in a single large academic medical center. We report here that hvKp infections were more common than expected, accounting for 2.6% of invasive K. pneumoniae infections, and presented with a wide disease spectrum, occasionally mimicking tumors, even co-infecting a COVID-19 patient. Most infections were community acquired with no recent international travel, suggesting hvKp strains are circulating in the community. Genomic analysis revealed genetic diversity, with the K1-ST23 lineage predominating but not clonal, and multiple sequence types of K2 including a SoCal unique K2-ST66 sublineage that had been unrecognized. Our findings highlight the urgency of heightened awareness of hvKp infection in the US, the need for rapid diagnosis of hvKp, and the necessity of implementing robust surveillance programs for hvKp at the institutional or local level.

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