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May 1, 2019

Three phylogenetic groups have driven the recent population expansion of Cryptococcus neoformans.

Cryptococcus neoformans (C. neoformans var. grubii) is an environmentally acquired pathogen causing 181,000 HIV-associated deaths each year. We sequenced 699 isolates, primarily C. neoformans from HIV-infected patients, from 5 countries in Asia and Africa. The phylogeny of C. neoformans reveals a recent exponential population expansion, consistent with the increase in the number of susceptible hosts. In our study population, this expansion has been driven by three sub-clades of the C. neoformans VNIa lineage; VNIa-4, VNIa-5 and VNIa-93. These three sub-clades account for 91% of clinical isolates sequenced in our study. Combining the genome data with clinical information, we find that…

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July 1, 2018

De novo mutations resolve disease transmission pathways in clonal malaria

Detecting de novo mutations in viral and bacterial pathogens enables researchers to reconstruct detailed networks of disease transmission and is a key technique in genomic epidemiology. However, these techniques have not yet been applied to the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in which a larger genome, slower generation times, and a complex life cycle make them difficult to implement. Here, we demonstrate the viability of de novo mutation studies in P. falciparum for the first time. Using a combination of sequencing, library preparation, and genotyping methods that have been optimized for accuracy in low-complexity genomic regions, we have detected de novo…

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June 1, 2018

Computational comparison of availability in CTL/gag epitopes among patients with acute and chronic HIV-1 infection.

Recent studies indicate that there is selection bias for transmission of viral polymorphisms associated with higher viral fitness. Furthermore, after transmission and before a specific immune response is mounted in the recipient, the virus undergoes a number of reversions which allow an increase in their replicative capacity. These aspects, and others, affect the viral population characteristic of early acute infection.160 singlegag-gene amplifications were obtained by limiting-dilution RT-PCR from plasma samples of 8 ARV-naïve patients with early acute infection (

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April 1, 2018

Horizontal antimicrobial resistance transfer drives epidemics of multiple Shigella species.

Horizontal gene transfer has played a role in developing the global public health crisis of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). However, the dynamics of AMR transfer through bacterial populations and its direct impact on human disease is poorly elucidated. Here, we study parallel epidemic emergences of multiple Shigella species, a priority AMR organism, in men who have sex with men to gain insight into AMR emergence and spread. Using genomic epidemiology, we show that repeated horizontal transfer of a single AMR plasmid among Shigella enhanced existing and facilitated new epidemics. These epidemic patterns contrasted with slighter, slower increases in disease caused by…

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February 6, 2018

Genomic analysis of hospital plumbing reveals diverse reservoir of bacterial plasmids conferring carbapenem resistance.

The hospital environment is a potential reservoir of bacteria with plasmids conferring carbapenem resistance. Our Hospital Epidemiology Service routinely performs extensive sampling of high-touch surfaces, sinks, and other locations in the hospital. Over a 2-year period, additional sampling was conducted at a broader range of locations, including housekeeping closets, wastewater from hospital internal pipes, and external manholes. We compared these data with previously collected information from 5 years of patient clinical and surveillance isolates. Whole-genome sequencing and analysis of 108 isolates provided comprehensive characterization ofblaKPC/blaNDM-positive isolates, enabling an in-depth genetic comparison. Strikingly, despite a very low prevalence of patient infections…

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January 1, 2018

Analysis of recombinational switching at the antigenic variation locus of the Lyme spirochete using a novel PacBio sequencing pipeline.

The Lyme disease spirochete evades the host immune system by combinatorial variation of VlsE, a surface antigen. Antigenic variation occurs via segmental gene conversion from contiguous silent cassettes into the vlsE locus. Because of the high degree of similarity between switch variants and the size of vlsE, short-read NGS technologies have been unsuitable for sequencing vlsE populations. Here we use PacBio sequencing technology coupled with the first fully-automated software pipeline (VAST) to accurately process NGS data by minimizing error frequency, eliminating heteroduplex errors and accurately aligning switch variants. We extend earlier studies by showing use of almost all of the vlsE…

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December 7, 2017

Full-Length Envelope Analyzer (FLEA): A tool for longitudinal analysis of viral amplicons

Next generation sequencing of viral populations has advanced our understanding of viral population dynamics, the development of drug resistance, and escape from host immune responses. Many applications require complete gene sequences, which can be impossible to reconstruct from short reads. HIV-1 env, the protein of interest for HIV vaccine studies, is exceptionally challenging for long-read sequencing and analysis due to its length, high substitution rate, and extensive indel variation. While long-read sequencing is attractive in this setting, the analysis of such data is not well handled by existing methods. To address this, we introduce FLEA (Full-Length Envelope Analyzer), which performs…

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November 1, 2017

A supervised statistical learning approach for accurate Legionella pneumophila source attribution during outbreaks.

Public health agencies are increasingly relying on genomics during Legionnaires' disease investigations. However, the causative bacterium (Legionella pneumophila) has an unusual population structure, with extreme temporal and spatial genome sequence conservation. Furthermore, Legionnaires' disease outbreaks can be caused by multiple L. pneumophila genotypes in a single source. These factors can confound cluster identification using standard phylogenomic methods. Here, we show that a statistical learning approach based on L. pneumophila core genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) comparisons eliminates ambiguity for defining outbreak clusters and accurately predicts exposure sources for clinical cases. We illustrate the performance of our method by genome comparisons…

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September 25, 2017

Genetic plasticity of the Shigella virulence plasmid is mediated by intra- and inter-molecular events between insertion sequences.

Acquisition of a single copy, large virulence plasmid, pINV, led to the emergence of Shigella spp. from Escherichia coli. The plasmid encodes a Type III secretion system (T3SS) on a 30 kb pathogenicity island (PAI), and is maintained in a bacterial population through a series of toxin:antitoxin (TA) systems which mediate post-segregational killing (PSK). The T3SS imposes a significant cost on the bacterium, and strains which have lost the plasmid and/or genes encoding the T3SS grow faster than wild-type strains in the laboratory, and fail to bind the indicator dye Congo Red (CR). Our aim was to define the molecular…

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September 1, 2017

Evolution and comparative genomics of pAQU-like conjugative plasmids in Vibrio species.

To investigate a set of MDR conjugative plasmids found in Vibrio species and characterize the underlying evolution process.pAQU-type plasmids from Vibrio species were sequenced using both Illumina and PacBio platforms. Bioinformatics tools were utilized to analyse the typical MDR regions and core genes in the plasmids.The nine pAQU-type plasmids ranged from ~160 to 206?kb in size and were found to harbour as many as 111 core genes encoding conjugative, replication and maintenance functions. Eight plasmids were found to carry a typical MDR region, which contained various accessory and resistance genes, including ISCR1-blaPER-1-bearing complex class 1 integrons, ISCR2-floR, ISCR2-tet(D)-tetR-ISCR2, qnrVC6, a…

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July 25, 2017

The distribution of miniature impala elements and SIX genes in the Fusarium genus is suggestive of horizontal gene transfer.

The mimp family of miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements was previously found only in genomes of Fusarium oxysporum and is contextually associated with virulence genes in this species. Through extensive comparative analysis of 83 F. oxysporum and 52 other Fusarium genomes, we uncovered the distribution of different mimp families throughout the genus. We show that (i) mimps are not exclusive to F. oxysporum; (ii) pathogenic isolates generally possess more mimps than non-pathogenic strains and (iii) two isolates of F. hostae and one F. proliferatum isolate display evidence for horizontal transfer of genetic material to or from F. oxysporum. Multiple instances of…

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July 1, 2017

Advantages of genome sequencing by long-read sequencer using SMRT technology in medical area.

PacBio RS II is the first commercialized third-generation DNA sequencer able to sequence a single molecule DNA in real-time without amplification. PacBio RS II's sequencing technology is novel and unique, enabling the direct observation of DNA synthesis by DNA polymerase. PacBio RS II confers four major advantages compared to other sequencing technologies: long read lengths, high consensus accuracy, a low degree of bias, and simultaneous capability of epigenetic characterization. These advantages surmount the obstacle of sequencing genomic regions such as high/low G+C, tandem repeat, and interspersed repeat regions. Moreover, PacBio RS II is ideal for whole genome sequencing, targeted sequencing,…

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July 1, 2017

Genomic characterization of a large plasmid containing a bla NDM-1 gene carried on Salmonella enterica serovar Indiana C629 isolate from China.

The bla NDM-1 gene in Salmonella species is mostly reported in clinical cases, but is rarely isolated from red and white meat in China.A Salmonella Indiana (S. Indiana) isolate was cultured from a chicken carcass procured from a slaughterhouse in China. Antimicrobial susceptibility was tested against a panel of agents. Whole-genome sequencing of the isolate was carried out and data was analyzed.A large plasmid, denoted as plasmid pC629 (210,106 bp), containing a composite cassette, consisting of IS26-bla NDM-1-ble MBL -?trpF-tat-cutA-ISCR1-sul1-qacE?1-aadA2-dfrA12-intI1-IS26 was identified. The latter locus was physically linked with bla OXA-1, bla CTX-M-65, bla TEM-1-encoding genes. A mercury resistance operon merACDEPTR…

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June 1, 2017

A large gene family in fission yeast encodes spore killers that subvert Mendel’s law.

Spore killers in fungi are selfish genetic elements that distort Mendelian segregation in their favor. It remains unclear how many species harbor them and how diverse their mechanisms are. Here, we discover two spore killers from a natural isolate of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Both killers belong to the previously uncharacterized wtf gene family with 25 members in the reference genome. These two killers act in strain-background-independent and genome-location-independent manners to perturb the maturation of spores not inheriting them. Spores carrying one killer are protected from its killing effect but not that of the other killer. The killing and…

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