Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) are an important cause of diarrhea globally, particularly among children under the age of five in developing countries. ETEC O6 is the most common ETEC serogroup, yet the genome wide population structure of isolates of this serogroup is yet to be determined. In this study, we have characterized 40 ETEC O6 isolates collected between 1975-2016 by whole genome sequencing (WGS) and by phenotypic antimicrobial susceptibility testing. To determine the relatedness of isolates, we evaluated two methods-whole genome high-quality single nucleotide polymorphism (whole genome-hqSNP) and core genome SNP analyses using Lyve-SET and Parsnp respectively. All isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility using a panel of 14 antibiotics. ResFinder 2.1 and a custom quinolone resistance determinants workflow were used for resistance determinant detection. VirulenceFinder 1.5 was used for prediction of the virulence genes. Thirty-seven isolates clustered into three major clades (I, II, III) by whole genome-hqSNP and core genome SNP analyses, while three isolates included in the whole genome-hqSNP analysis only did not cluster with clades I-III by both analyses and formed a distantly related outgroup, designated clade IV. Median number of pairwise whole genome-hqSNPs in clonal ETEC O6 outbreaks ranged from 0 to 5. Of the 40 isolates tested for antimicrobial susceptibility, 18 isolates were pansusceptible. Twenty-two isolates were resistant to at least one antibiotic, nine of which were multidrug resistant. Phenotypic antimicrobial resistance (AR) correlated with AR determinants in 22 isolates. Thirty-two isolates harbored both enterotoxin virulence genes while the remaining 8 isolates had only one of the two virulence genes. In summary, whole genome-hqSNP and core genome SNP analyses from this study revealed similar evolutionary relationships and an overall diversity of ETEC O6 isolates independent of time of isolation. Less than 5 pairwise hqSNPs between ETEC O6 isolates is circumstantially indicative of an outbreak cluster. Findings from this study will be a basis for quicker outbreak detection and control by efficient subtyping by WGS.
Journal: PloS one