July 7, 2019  |  

Characterization of the effect of the histidine kinase CovS on response regulator phosphorylation in group A Streptococcus.

Two-component gene regulatory systems (TCSs) are a major mechanism by which bacteria respond to environmental stimuli and thus are critical to infectivity. For example, the control of virulence regulator/sensor kinase (CovRS) TCS is central to the virulence of the major human pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS). Here, we used a combination of quantitative in vivo phosphorylation assays, isoallelic strains that varied by only a single amino acid in CovS, and transcriptome analyses to characterize the impact of CovS on CovR phosphorylation and GAS global gene expression. We discovered that CovS primarily serves to phosphorylate CovR, thereby resulting in the repression of virulence factor-encoding genes. However, a GAS strain selectively deficient in CovS phosphatase activity had a distinct transcriptome relative to that of its parental strain, indicating that both CovS kinase and phosphatase activities influence the CovR phosphorylation status. Surprisingly, compared to a serotype M3 strain, serotype M1 GAS strains had high levels of phosphorylated CovR, low transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes, and strikingly different responses to environmental cues. Moreover, the inactivation of CovS in the serotype M1 background resulted in a greater decrease in phosphorylated CovR levels and a greater increase in the transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes than did CovS inactivation in a serotype M3 strain. These data clarify the influence of CovS on the CovR phosphorylation status and provide insight into why serotype M1 GAS strains have high rates of spontaneous mutations in covS during invasive GAS infection, thus providing a link between TCS molecular function and the epidemiology of deadly bacterial infections. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

What caused the outbreak of ESBL-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae in a neonatal intensive care unit, Germany 2009 to 2012? Reconstructing transmission with epidemiological analysis and whole-genome sequencing.

We aimed to retrospectively reconstruct the timing of transmission events and pathways in order to understand why extensive preventive measures and investigations were not sufficient to prevent new cases.We extracted available information from patient charts to describe cases and to compare them to the normal population of the ward. We conducted a cohort study to identify risk factors for pathogen acquisition. We sequenced the available isolates to determine the phylogenetic relatedness of Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates on the basis of their genome sequences.The investigation comprises 37 cases and the 10 cases with ESBL (extended-spectrum beta-lactamase)-producing K. pneumoniae bloodstream infection. Descriptive epidemiology indicated that a continuous transmission from person to person was most likely. Results from the cohort study showed that ‘frequent manipulation’ (a proxy for increased exposure to medical procedures) was significantly associated with being a case (RR 1.44, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.19). Genome sequences revealed that all 48 bacterial isolates available for sequencing from 31 cases were closely related (maximum genetic distance, 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms). Based on our calculation of evolutionary rate and sequence diversity, we estimate that the outbreak strain was endemic since 2008. Epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses consistently indicated that there were additional, undiscovered cases prior to the onset of microbiological screening and that the spread of the pathogen remained undetected over several years, driven predominantly by person-to-person transmission. Whole-genome sequencing provided valuable information on the onset, course and size of the outbreak, and on possible ways of transmission. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genetic stability of pneumococcal isolates during 35 days of human experimental carriage.

Pneumococcal carriage is a reservoir for transmission and a precursor to pneumococcal disease. The experimental human pneumococcal carriage model provides a useful tool to aid vaccine licensure through the measurement of vaccine efficacy against carriage (VEcol). Documentation of the genetic stability of the experimental human pneumococcal carriage model is important to further strengthen confidence in its safety and conclusions, enabling it to further facilitate vaccine licensure through providing evidence of VEcol.229 isolates were sequenced from 10 volunteers in whom experimental human pneumococcal carriage was established, sampled over a period of 35 days. Multiple isolates from within a single volunteer at a single time provided a deep resolution for detecting variation. HiSeq data from the isolates were mapped against a PacBio reference of the inoculum to call variable sites.The observed variation between experimental carriage isolates was minimal with the maximum SNP distance between any isolate and the reference being 3 SNPs.The low-level variation described provides evidence for the stability of the experimental human pneumococcal carriage model over 35 days, which can be reliably and confidently used to measure VEcol and aid future progression of pneumococcal vaccination. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Sequence type 1 group B Streptococcus, an emerging cause of invasive disease in adults, evolves by small genetic changes.

The molecular mechanisms underlying pathogen emergence in humans is a critical but poorly understood area of microbiologic investigation. Serotype V group B Streptococcus (GBS) was first isolated from humans in 1975, and rates of invasive serotype V GBS disease significantly increased starting in the early 1990s. We found that 210 of 229 serotype V GBS strains (92%) isolated from the bloodstream of nonpregnant adults in the United States and Canada between 1992 and 2013 were multilocus sequence type (ST) 1. Elucidation of the complete genome of a 1992 ST-1 strain revealed that this strain had the highest homology with a GBS strain causing cow mastitis and that the 1992 ST-1 strain differed from serotype V strains isolated in the late 1970s by acquisition of cell surface proteins and antimicrobial resistance determinants. Whole-genome comparison of 202 invasive ST-1 strains detected significant recombination in only eight strains. The remaining 194 strains differed by an average of 97 SNPs. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a temporally dependent mode of genetic diversification consistent with the emergence in the 1990s of ST-1 GBS as major agents of human disease. Thirty-one loci were identified as being under positive selective pressure, and mutations at loci encoding polysaccharide capsule production proteins, regulators of pilus expression, and two-component gene regulatory systems were shown to affect the bacterial phenotype. These data reveal that phenotypic diversity among ST-1 GBS is mainly driven by small genetic changes rather than extensive recombination, thereby extending knowledge into how pathogens adapt to humans.


July 7, 2019  |  

Common cell shape evolution of two nasopharyngeal pathogens.

Respiratory infectious diseases are the third cause of worldwide death. The nasopharynx is the portal of entry and the ecological niche of many microorganisms, of which some are pathogenic to humans, such as Neisseria meningitidis and Moraxella catarrhalis. These microbes possess several surface structures that interact with the actors of the innate immune system. In our attempt to understand the past evolution of these bacteria and their adaption to the nasopharynx, we first studied differences in cell wall structure, one of the strongest immune-modulators. We were able to show that a modification of peptidoglycan (PG) composition (increased proportion of pentapeptides) and a cell shape change from rod to cocci had been selected for along the past evolution of N. meningitidis. Using genomic comparison across species, we correlated the emergence of the new cell shape (cocci) with the deletion, from the genome of N. meningitidis ancestor, of only one gene: yacF. Moreover, the reconstruction of this genetic deletion in a bacterium harboring the ancestral version of the locus together with the analysis of the PG structure, suggest that this gene is coordinating the transition from cell elongation to cell division. Accompanying the loss of yacF, the elongation machinery was also lost by several of the descendants leading to the change in the PG structure observed in N. meningitidis. Finally, the same evolution was observed for the ancestor of M. catarrhalis. This suggests a strong selection of these genetic events during the colonization of the nasopharynx. This selection may have been forced by the requirement of evolving permissive interaction with the immune system, the need to reduce the cellular surface exposed to immune attacks without reducing the intracellular storage capacity, or the necessity to better compete for adhesion to target cells.


July 7, 2019  |  

Emergence of Serotype IV group B Streptococcus adult invasive disease in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, is driven by colonal sequence type 459 strains.

Serotype IV group B Streptococcus (GBS) is emerging in Canada and the United States with rates as high as 5% of the total burden of adult invasive GBS disease. To understand this emergence, we studied the population structure and assessed the antimicrobial susceptibility of serotype IV isolates causing adult invasive infection in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, between 2010 and 2014. Whole-genome sequencing was used to determine multilocus sequence typing information and identify genes encoding antimicrobial resistance in 85 invasive serotype IV GBS strains. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was performed by standard methods. Strain divergence was assessed using genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis. Serotype IV strains were responsible for 16.9% of adult invasive GBS infections in Manitoba and Saskatchewan during the period. The majority of serotype IV isolates (89%) were clonally related, tetracycline-, erythromycin-, and clindamycin-resistant sequence type 459 (ST459) strains that possessed genes tetM and ermTR. Genome comparisons between ST459 and serotype V ST1 GBS identified several areas of recombination in an overall similar genomic background. Serotype IV ST459 GBS strains are expanding and causing a substantial percentage of adult invasive GBS disease. This emergence may be linked to the acquisition of resistance to tetracycline, macrolides, and lincosamides. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequences of three Neisseria gonorrhoeae laboratory reference Strains, determined using PacBio Single-Molecule Real-Time technology.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the etiological agent that causes the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea, is a significant public health concern due to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. We report the complete genome sequences of three reference isolates with varied antimicrobial susceptibility that will aid in elucidating the genetic mechanisms that confer resistance. Copyright © 2015 Abrams et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

Transfer of scarlet fever-associated elements into the group A Streptococcus M1T1 clone.

The group A Streptococcus (GAS) M1T1 clone emerged in the 1980s as a leading cause of epidemic invasive infections worldwide, including necrotizing fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome. Horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements has played a central role in the evolution of the M1T1 clone, with bacteriophage-encoded determinants DNase Sda1 and superantigen SpeA2 contributing to enhanced virulence and colonization respectively. Outbreaks of scarlet fever in Hong Kong and China in 2011, caused primarily by emm12 GAS, led to our investigation of the next most common cause of scarlet fever, emm1 GAS. Genomic analysis of 18 emm1 isolates from Hong Kong and 16 emm1 isolates from mainland China revealed the presence of mobile genetic elements associated with the expansion of emm12 scarlet fever clones in the M1T1 genomic background. These mobile genetic elements confer expression of superantigens SSA and SpeC, and resistance to tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin. Horizontal transfer of mobile DNA conferring multi-drug resistance and expression of a new superantigen repertoire in the M1T1 clone should trigger heightened public health awareness for the global dissemination of these genetic elements.


July 7, 2019  |  

Next-generation sequencing and comparative analysis of sequential outbreaks caused by multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii at a large academic burn center.

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) analysis has emerged as a promising molecular epidemiological method for investigating health care-associated outbreaks. Here, we used NGS to investigate a 3-year outbreak of multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (MDRAB) at a large academic burn center. A reference genome from the index case was generated using de novo assembly of PacBio reads. Forty-six MDRAB isolates were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and sequenced using an Illumina platform. After mapping to the index case reference genome, four samples were excluded due to low coverage, leaving 42 samples for further analysis. Multilocus sequence types (MLST) and the presence of acquired resistance genes were also determined from the sequencing data. A transmission network was inferred from genomic and epidemiological data using a Bayesian framework. Based on single-nucleotide variant (SNV) differences, this MDRAB outbreak represented three sequential outbreaks caused by distinct clones. The first and second outbreaks were caused by sequence type 2 (ST2), while the third outbreak was caused by ST79. For the second outbreak, the MLST and PFGE results were discordant. However, NGS-based SNV typing detected a recombination event and consequently enabled a more accurate phylogenetic analysis. The distribution of resistance genes varied among the three outbreaks. The first- and second-outbreak strains possessed a blaOXA-23-like group, while the third-outbreak strains harbored a blaOXA-40-like group. NGS-based analysis demonstrated the superior resolution of outbreak transmission networks for MDRAB and provided insight into the mechanisms of strain diversification between sequential outbreaks through recombination. Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

An evaluation of alternative methods for constructing phylogenies from whole genome sequence data: a case study with Salmonella.

Comparative genomics based on whole genome sequencing (WGS) is increasingly being applied to investigate questions within evolutionary and molecular biology, as well as questions concerning public health (e.g., pathogen outbreaks). Given the impact that conclusions derived from such analyses may have, we have evaluated the robustness of clustering individuals based on WGS data to three key factors: (1) next-generation sequencing (NGS) platform (HiSeq, MiSeq, IonTorrent, 454, and SOLiD), (2) algorithms used to construct a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) matrix (reference-based and reference-free), and (3) phylogenetic inference method (FastTreeMP, GARLI, and RAxML). We carried out these analyses on 194 whole genome sequences representing 107 unique Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica ser. Montevideo strains. Reference-based approaches for identifying SNPs produced trees that were significantly more similar to one another than those produced under the reference-free approach. Topologies inferred using a core matrix (i.e., no missing data) were significantly more discordant than those inferred using a non-core matrix that allows for some missing data. However, allowing for too much missing data likely results in a high false discovery rate of SNPs. When analyzing the same SNP matrix, we observed that the more thorough inference methods implemented in GARLI and RAxML produced more similar topologies than FastTreeMP. Our results also confirm that reproducibility varies among NGS platforms where the MiSeq had the lowest number of pairwise differences among replicate runs. Our investigation into the robustness of clustering patterns illustrates the importance of carefully considering how data from different platforms are combined and analyzed. We found clear differences in the topologies inferred, and certain methods performed significantly better than others for discriminating between the highly clonal organisms investigated here. The methods supported by our results represent a preliminary set of guidelines and a step towards developing validated standards for clustering based on whole genome sequence data.


July 7, 2019  |  

Seeking the source of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in a recently opened hospital: an observational study using whole-genome sequencing.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common nosocomial pathogen responsible for significant morbidity and mortality internationally. Patients may become colonised or infected with P. aeruginosa after exposure to contaminated sources within the hospital environment. The aim of this study was to determine whether whole-genome sequencing (WGS) can be used to determine the source in a cohort of burns patients at high risk of P. aeruginosa acquisition.An observational prospective cohort study.Burns care ward and critical care ward in the UK.Patients with >7% total burns by surface area were recruited into the study.All patients were screened for P. aeruginosa on admission and samples taken from their immediate environment, including water. Screening patients who subsequently developed a positive P. aeruginosa microbiology result were subject to enhanced environmental surveillance. All isolates of P. aeruginosa were genome sequenced. Sequence analysis looked at similarity and relatedness between isolates.WGS for 141 P. aeruginosa isolates were obtained from patients, hospital water and the ward environment. Phylogenetic analysis revealed eight distinct clades, with a single clade representing the majority of environmental isolates in the burns unit. Isolates from three patients had identical genotypes compared with water isolates from the same room. There was clear clustering of water isolates by room and outlet, allowing the source of acquisitions to be unambiguously identified. Whole-genome shotgun sequencing of biofilm DNA extracted from a thermostatic mixer valve revealed this was the source of a P. aeruginosa subpopulation previously detected in water. In the remaining two cases there was no clear link to the hospital environment.This study reveals that WGS can be used for source tracking of P. aeruginosa in a hospital setting, and that acquisitions can be traced to a specific source within a hospital ward. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genome sequencing of an extended series of NDM-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates from Neonatal infections in a Nepali hospital characterizes the extent of community- versus hospital-associated transmission in an endemic setting.

NDM-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae strains represent major clinical and infection control challenges, particularly in resource-limited settings with high rates of antimicrobial resistance. Determining whether transmission occurs at a gene, plasmid, or bacterial strain level and within hospital and/or the community has implications for monitoring and controlling spread. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is the highest-resolution typing method available for transmission epidemiology. We sequenced carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae isolates from 26 individuals involved in several infection case clusters in a Nepali neonatal unit and 68 other clinical Gram-negative isolates from a similar time frame, using Illumina and PacBio technologies. Within-outbreak chromosomal and closed-plasmid structures were generated and used as data set-specific references. Three temporally separated case clusters were caused by a single NDM K. pneumoniae strain with a conserved set of four plasmids, one being a 304,526-bp plasmid carrying blaNDM-1. The plasmids contained a large number of antimicrobial/heavy metal resistance and plasmid maintenance genes, which may have explained their persistence. No obvious environmental/human reservoir was found. There was no evidence of transmission of outbreak plasmids to other Gram-negative clinical isolates, although blaNDM variants were present in other isolates in different genetic contexts. WGS can effectively define complex antimicrobial resistance epidemiology. Wider sampling frames are required to contextualize outbreaks. Infection control may be effective in terminating outbreaks caused by particular strains, even in areas with widespread resistance, although this study could not demonstrate evidence supporting specific interventions. Larger, detailed studies are needed to characterize resistance genes, vectors, and host strains involved in disease, to enable effective intervention. Copyright © 2014 Stoesser et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

The Harvest suite for rapid core-genome alignment and visualization of thousands of intraspecific microbial genomes.

Whole-genome sequences are now available for many microbial species and clades, however, existing whole-genome alignment methods are limited in their ability to perform sequence comparisons of multiple sequences simultaneously. Here we present the Harvest suite of core-genome alignment and visualization tools for the rapid and simultaneous analysis of thousands of intraspecific microbial strains. Harvest includes Parsnp, a fast core-genome multi-aligner, and Gingr, a dynamic visual platform. Together they provide interactive core-genome alignments, variant calls, recombination detection, and phylogenetic trees. Using simulated and real data we demonstrate that our approach exhibits unrivaled speed while maintaining the accuracy of existing methods. The Harvest suite is open-source and freely available from: http://github.com/marbl/harvest.


July 7, 2019  |  

Global phylogenomic analysis of nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae reveals a deep-branching classic lineage that is distinct from multiple sporadic lineages.

The surrounding capsule of Streptococcus pneumoniae has been identified as a major virulence factor and is targeted by pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV). However, nonencapsulated S. pneumoniae (non-Ec-Sp) have also been isolated globally, mainly in carriage studies. It is unknown if non-Ec-Sp evolve sporadically, if they have high antibiotic nonsusceptiblity rates and a unique, specific gene content. Here, whole-genome sequencing of 131 non-Ec-Sp isolates sourced from 17 different locations around the world was performed. Results revealed a deep-branching classic lineage that is distinct from multiple sporadic lineages. The sporadic lineages clustered with a previously sequenced, global collection of encapsulated S. pneumoniae (Ec-Sp) isolates while the classic lineage is comprised mainly of the frequently identified multilocus sequences types (STs) ST344 (n = 39) and ST448 (n = 40). All ST344 and nine ST448 isolates had high nonsusceptiblity rates to ß-lactams and other antimicrobials. Analysis of the accessory genome reveals that the classic non-Ec-Sp contained an increased number of mobile elements, than Ec-Sp and sporadic non-Ec-Sp. Performing adherence assays to human epithelial cells for selected classic and sporadic non-Ec-Sp revealed that the presence of a integrative conjugative element (ICE) results in increased adherence to human epithelial cells (P = 0.005). In contrast, sporadic non-Ec-Sp lacking the ICE had greater growth in vitro possibly resulting in improved fitness. In conclusion, non-Ec-Sp isolates from the classic lineage have evolved separately. They have spread globally, are well adapted to nasopharyngeal carriage and are able to coexist with Ec-Sp. Due to continued use of PCV, non-Ec-Sp may become more prevalent. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

Development of new methods for the quantitative detection and typing of Lactobacillus parabuchneri in dairy products

Thirty-one isolates of Lactobacillus parabuchneri were obtained from cheese containing histamine; of these, 26 were found to possess the hdcA gene encoding histidine decarboxylase. By analysing the genome data of 13 isolates, specific targets for the development of PCR-based detection and typing systems for L. parabuchneri were identified. The real-time PCR for detection showed a linear quantification over a range of 7 logs and a detection limit of 10 gene equivalents per reaction. The strain typing method utilised the amplification of repeat sequences and showed discrimination comparable with a phylogenetic tree, based on genome comparisons. The method was suitable for detecting and monitoring the development of L. parabuchneri in raw milk and cheese.


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