An atypically large outbreak of Elizabethkingia anophelis infections occurred in Wisconsin. Here we show that it was caused by a single strain with thirteen characteristic genomic regions. Strikingly, the outbreak isolates show an accelerated evolutionary rate and an atypical mutational spectrum. Six phylogenetic sub-clusters with distinctive temporal and geographic dynamics are revealed, and their last common ancestor existed approximately one year before the first recognized human infection. Unlike other E. anophelis, the outbreak strain had a disrupted DNA repair mutY gene caused by insertion of an integrative and conjugative element. This genomic change probably contributed to the high evolutionary rate of the outbreak strain and may have increased its adaptability, as many mutations in protein-coding genes occurred during the outbreak. This unique discovery of an outbreak caused by a naturally occurring mutator bacterial pathogen provides a dramatic example of the potential impact of pathogen evolutionary dynamics on infectious disease epidemiology.
Journal: Nature communications