July 19, 2019  |  

The origin of the Haitian cholera outbreak strain.

Although cholera has been present in Latin America since 1991, it had not been epidemic in Haiti for at least 100 years. Recently, however, there has been a severe outbreak of cholera in Haiti.We used third-generation single-molecule real-time DNA sequencing to determine the genome sequences of 2 clinical Vibrio cholerae isolates from the current outbreak in Haiti, 1 strain that caused cholera in Latin America in 1991, and 2 strains isolated in South Asia in 2002 and 2008. Using primary sequence data, we compared the genomes of these 5 strains and a set of previously obtained partial genomic sequences of 23 diverse strains of V. cholerae to assess the likely origin of the cholera outbreak in Haiti.Both single-nucleotide variations and the presence and structure of hypervariable chromosomal elements indicate that there is a close relationship between the Haitian isolates and variant V. cholerae El Tor O1 strains isolated in Bangladesh in 2002 and 2008. In contrast, analysis of genomic variation of the Haitian isolates reveals a more distant relationship with circulating South American isolates.The Haitian epidemic is probably the result of the introduction, through human activity, of a V. cholerae strain from a distant geographic source. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.).

July 7, 2019  |  

A hybrid approach for the automated finishing of bacterial genomes.

Advances in DNA sequencing technology have improved our ability to characterize most genomic diversity. However, accurate resolution of large structural events is challenging because of the short read lengths of second-generation technologies. Third-generation sequencing technologies, which can yield longer multikilobase reads, have the potential to address limitations associated with genome assembly. Here we combine sequencing data from second- and third-generation DNA sequencing technologies to assemble the two-chromosome genome of a recent Haitian cholera outbreak strain into two nearly finished contigs at >99.9% accuracy. Complex regions with clinically relevant structure were completely resolved. In separate control assemblies on experimental and simulated data for the canonical N16961 cholera reference strain, we obtained 14 scaffolds of greater than 1 kb for the experimental data and 8 scaffolds of greater than 1 kb for the simulated data, which allowed us to correct several errors in contigs assembled from the short-read data alone. This work provides a blueprint for the next generation of rapid microbial identification and full-genome assembly.

July 7, 2019  |  

Origins of the current seventh cholera pandemic.

Vibrio cholerae has caused seven cholera pandemics since 1817, imposing terror on much of the world, but bacterial strains are currently only available for the sixth and seventh pandemics. The El Tor biotype seventh pandemic began in 1961 in Indonesia, but did not originate directly from the classical biotype sixth-pandemic strain. Previous studies focused mainly on the spread of the seventh pandemic after 1970. Here, we analyze in unprecedented detail the origin, evolution, and transition to pandemicity of the seventh-pandemic strain. We used high-resolution comparative genomic analysis of strains collected from 1930 to 1964, covering the evolution from the first available El Tor biotype strain to the start of the seventh pandemic. We define six stages leading to the pandemic strain and reveal all key events. The seventh pandemic originated from a nonpathogenic strain in the Middle East, first observed in 1897. It subsequently underwent explosive diversification, including the spawning of the pandemic lineage. This rapid diversification suggests that, when first observed, the strain had only recently arrived in the Middle East, possibly from the Asian homeland of cholera. The lineage migrated to Makassar, Indonesia, where it gained the important virulence-associated elements Vibrio seventh pandemic island I (VSP-I), VSP-II, and El Tor type cholera toxin prophage by 1954, and it then became pandemic in 1961 after only 12 additional mutations. Our data indicate that specific niches in the Middle East and Makassar were important in generating the pandemic strain by providing gene sources and the driving forces for genetic events.

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