April 21, 2020  |  

A Controlled Human Infection Model of Group A Streptococcus Pharyngitis: Which Strain and Why?

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a major cause of global infection-related morbidity and mortality. A modern controlled human infection model (CHIM) of GAS pharyngitis can accelerate vaccine development and pathogenesis research. A robust rationale for strain selection is central to meeting ethical, scientific, and regulatory requirements. Multifaceted characterization studies were done to compare a preferred candidate emm75 (M75) GAS strain to three other strains: an alternative candidate emm12 (M12) strain, an M1 strain used in 1970s pharyngitis CHIM studies (SS-496), and a representative (5448) of the globally disseminated M1T1 clone. A range of approaches were used to explore strain growth, adherence, invasion, delivery characteristics, short- and long-term viability, phylogeny, virulence factors, vaccine antigens, resistance to killing by human neutrophils, and lethality in a murine invasive model. The strains grew reliably in a medium without animal-derived components, were consistently transferred using a swab method simulating the CHIM protocol, remained viable at -80°C, and carried genes for most candidate vaccine antigens. Considering GAS molecular epidemiology, virulence factors, in vitro assays, and results from the murine model, the contemporary strains show a spectrum of virulence, with M75 appearing the least virulent and 5448 the most. The virulence profile of SS-496, used safely in 1970s CHIM studies, was similar to that of 5448 in the animal model and virulence gene carriage. The results of this multifaceted characterization confirm the M75 strain as an appropriate choice for initial deployment in the CHIM, with the aim of safely and successfully causing pharyngitis in healthy adult volunteers. IMPORTANCE GAS (Streptococcus pyogenes) is a leading global cause of infection-related morbidity and mortality. A modern CHIM of GAS pharyngitis could help to accelerate vaccine development and drive pathogenesis research. Challenge strain selection is critical to the safety and success of any CHIM and especially so for an organism such as GAS, with its wide strain diversity and potential to cause severe life-threatening acute infections (e.g., toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis) and postinfectious complications (e.g., acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and acute poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis). In this paper, we outline the rationale for selecting an emm75 strain for initial use in a GAS pharyngitis CHIM in healthy adult volunteers, drawing on the findings of a broad characterization effort spanning molecular epidemiology, in vitro assays, whole-genome sequencing, and animal model studies. Copyright © 2019 Osowicki et al.

April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative genomics and pathogenicity potential of members of the Pseudomonas syringae species complex on Prunus spp.

Diseases on Prunus spp. have been associated with a large number of phylogenetically different pathovars and species within the P. syringae species complex. Despite their economic significance, there is a severe lack of genomic information of these pathogens. The high phylogenetic diversity observed within strains causing disease on Prunus spp. in nature, raised the question whether other strains or species within the P. syringae species complex were potentially pathogenic on Prunus spp.To gain insight into the genomic potential of adaptation and virulence in Prunus spp., a total of twelve de novo whole genome sequences of P. syringae pathovars and species found in association with diseases on cherry (sweet, sour and ornamental-cherry) and peach were sequenced. Strains sequenced in this study covered three phylogroups and four clades. These strains were screened in vitro for pathogenicity on Prunus spp. together with additional genome sequenced strains thus covering nine out of thirteen of the currently defined P. syringae phylogroups. Pathogenicity tests revealed that most of the strains caused symptoms in vitro and no obvious link was found between presence of known virulence factors and the observed pathogenicity pattern based on comparative genomics. Non-pathogenic strains were displaying a two to three times higher generation time when grown in rich medium.In this study, the first set of complete genomes of cherry associated P. syringae strains as well as the draft genome of the quarantine peach pathogen P. syringae pv. persicae were generated. The obtained genomic data were matched with phenotypic data in order to determine factors related to pathogenicity to Prunus spp. Results of this study suggest that the inability to cause disease on Prunus spp. in vitro is not the result of host specialization but rather linked to metabolic impairments of individual strains.

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