A novel influenza A (H1N1) virus has spread rapidly across the globe. Judging its pandemic potential is difficult with limited data, but nevertheless essential to inform appropriate health responses. By analyzing the outbreak in Mexico, early data on international spread, and viral genetic diversity, we make an early assessment of transmissibility and severity. Our estimates suggest that 23,000 (range 6000 to 32,000) individuals had been infected in Mexico by late April, giving an estimated case fatality ratio (CFR) of 0.4% (range: 0.3 to 1.8%) based on confirmed and suspected deaths reported to that time. In a community outbreak in the small community of La Gloria, Veracruz, no deaths were attributed to infection, giving an upper 95% bound on CFR of 0.6%. Thus, although substantial uncertainty remains, clinical severity appears less than that seen in the 1918 influenza pandemic but comparable with that seen in the 1957 pandemic. Clinical attack rates in children in La Gloria were twice that in adults (<15 years of age: 61%; ≥15 years: 29%). Three different epidemiological analyses gave basic reproduction number (R0) estimates in the range of 1.4 to 1.6, whereas a genetic analysis gave a central estimate of 1.2. This range of values is consistent with 14 to 73 generations of human-to-human transmission having occurred in Mexico to late April. Transmissibility is therefore substantially higher than that of seasonal flu, and comparable with lower estimates of R0 obtained from previous influenza pandemics.
Background. Pneumococci could evade pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) by modifying, mutating, or deleting vaccine-serotype capsule genes or by downregulating capsule production. We sought to assess whether pneumococci that are nontypeable (NT) by the Quellung reaction truly lack capsule genes or are failing to produce capsule in vitro.
Methods. We applied multilocus sequence typing and a microarray for detection of pneumococcal polysaccharide capsule biosynthesis genes to NT carriage (children aged <5 years; years 1997–2000, 2006–2008) and NT invasive disease (IPD) (all ages; years 1994–2007) isolates from Native American communities.
Results. Twenty-seven of 28 (96.4%) NT IPD isolates had sequence types (STs) typically found among typeable IPD isolates and contained whole or fragments of capsule genes that matched known serotypes; 1 NT-IPD isolate had a profile resembling NT carriage isolates. Forty-nine of 76 (64.5%) NT carriage isolates had STs that typically lack capsule genes and were similar to NT carriage isolates found globally.
Conclusions. This is the first documentation of IPD from an NT strain confirmed to lack all known capsule genes. Most NT IPD isolates have or had the capacity to produce capsule, whereas a majority of NT carriage isolates lack this capacity. We found no evidence of pneumococcal adaptation to PCV7 via downregulation or deletion of vaccine-serotype capsule genes.
Pneumococci could evade pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) by modifying, mutating, or deleting vaccine-serotype capsule genes or by downregulating capsule production. We sought to assess whether pneumococci that are nontypeable (NT) by the Quellung reaction truly lack capsule genes or are failing to produce capsule in vitro.
We applied multilocus sequence typing and a microarray for detection of pneumococcal polysaccharide capsule biosynthesis genes to NT carriage (children aged <5 years; years 1997–2000, 2006–2008) and NT invasive disease (IPD) (all ages; years 1994–2007) isolates from Native American communities.
Twenty-seven of 28 (96.4%) NT IPD isolates had sequence types (STs) typically found among typeable IPD isolates and contained whole or fragments of capsule genes that matched known serotypes; 1 NT-IPD isolate had a profile resembling NT carriage isolates. Forty-nine of 76 (64.5%) NT carriage isolates had STs that typically lack capsule genes and were similar to NT carriage isolates found globally.
This is the first documentation of IPD from an NT strain confirmed to lack all known capsule genes. Most NT IPD isolates have or had the capacity to produce capsule, whereas a majority of NT carriage isolates lack this capacity. We found no evidence of pneumococcal adaptation to PCV7 via downregulation or deletion of vaccine-serotype capsule genes.
We sought to measure trends in Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP) carriage and antibiotic resistance in young children in Massachusetts communities after widespread adoption of heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) and before the introduction of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13).
We conducted a cross-sectional study including collection of questionnaire data and nasopharyngeal specimens among children <7 years in primary care practices from 8 Massachusetts communities during the winter season of 2008–9 and compared with to similar studies performed in 2001, 2003–4, and 2006–7. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and serotyping were performed on pneumococcal isolates, and risk factors for colonization in recent seasons (2006–07 and 2008–09) were evaluated.
We collected nasopharyngeal specimens from 1,011 children, 290 (29%) of whom were colonized with pneumococcus. Non-PCV7 serotypes accounted for 98% of pneumococcal isolates, most commonly 19A (14%), 6C (11%), and 15B/C (11%). In 2008–09, newly-targeted PCV13 serotypes accounted for 20% of carriage isolates and 41% of penicillin non-susceptible S. pneumoniae (PNSP). In multivariate models, younger age, child care, young siblings, and upper respiratory illness remained predictors of pneumococcal carriage, despite near-complete serotype replacement. Only young age and child care were significantly associated with PNSP carriage.
Serotype replacement post-PCV7 is essentially complete and has been sustained in young children, with the relatively virulent 19A being the most common serotype. Predictors of carriage remained similar despite serotype replacement. PCV13 may reduce 19A and decrease antibiotic-resistant strains, but monitoring for new serotype replacement is warranted.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; antibiotic resistance; serotype; colonization
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a powerful tool for understanding both patterns of descent over time and space (phylogeography) and the molecular processes underpinning genome divergence in pathogenic bacteria. Here, we describe a synthesis between these perspectives by employing a recently developed Bayesian approach, BRATNextGen, for detecting recombination on an expanded NGS dataset of the globally disseminated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clone ST239.
The data confirm strong geographical clustering at continental, national and city scales and demonstrate that the rate of recombination varies significantly between phylogeographic sub-groups representing independent introductions from Europe. These differences are most striking when mobile non-core genes are included, but remain apparent even when only considering the stable core genome. The monophyletic ST239 sub-group corresponding to isolates from South America shows heightened recombination, the sub-group predominantly from Asia shows an intermediate level, and a very low level of recombination is noted in a third sub-group representing a large collection from Turkey.
We show that the rapid global dissemination of a single pathogenic bacterial clone results in local variation in measured recombination rates. Possible explanatory variables include the size and time since emergence of each defined sub-population (as determined by the sampling frame), variation in transmission dynamics due to host movement, and changes in the bacterial genome affecting the propensity for recombination.
Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) has been reduced in the US following conjugate vaccination (PCV7) targeting seven pneumococcal serotypes in 2000. However, increases in IPD due to other serotypes have been observed, in particular 19A. How much this “serotype replacement” will erode the benefits of vaccination and over what timescale is unknown. We used a population genetic approach to test first whether the selective impact of vaccination could be detected in a longitudinal carriage sample, and secondly how long it persisted for following introduction of vaccine in 2000. To detect the selective impact of the vaccine we compared the serotype diversity of samples from pneumococcal carriage in Massachusetts children collected in 2001, 2004 and 2007 with others collected in the pre-vaccine era in Massachusetts, the UK and Finland. The 2004 sample was significantly (p >0.0001) more diverse than pre-vaccine samples, indicating the selective pressure of vaccination. The 2007 sample showed no significant difference in diversity from the pre-vaccine period, and exhibited similar population structure, but with different serotypes. In 2007 the carriage frequency of 19A was similar to that of the most common serotype in pre-vaccine samples. We suggest that serotype replacement involving 19A may be complete in Massachusetts due to similarities in population structure to pre-vaccine samples. These results suggest that the replacement phenomenon occurs rapidly with high vaccine coverage, and may allay concerns about future increases in disease due to 19A. For other serotypes, the future course of replacement disease remains to be determined.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; Infectious disease epidemiology; Nasopharyngeal carriage; Population genetics
Infections caused by multi-resistant Gram positive bacteria represent a major health burden in the community as well as in hospitalized patients. Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium are well-known pathogens of hospitalized patients, frequently linked with resistance against multiple antibiotics, compromising effective therapy. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes are important pathogens in the community and S. aureus has recently emerged as an important community-acquired pathogen.
Population genetic studies reveal that recombination prevails as a driving force of genetic diversity in E. faecium, E. faecalis, S. pneumoniae, and S. pyogenes and thus, these species are weakly clonal. Although recombination has a relatively modest role driving the genetic variation of the core genome of S. aureus, the horizontal acquistion of resistance and virulence genes plays a key role in the emergence of new clinically relevant clones in this species. In this review we discuss the population genetics of E. faecium, E. faecalis, S. pneumoniae, S. pyogenes, and S. aureus. Knowledge of the population structure of these pathogens is not only highly relevant for (molecular) epidemiological research but also for identifying the genetic variation that underlies changes in clinical behaviour, to improve our understanding of the pathogenic behaviour of particular clones and to identify novel targets for vaccines or immunotherapy.
Enterococcus; Streptococcus; Staphylococcus; MLST; evolution; Molecular epidemiology
Enterococcus faecium has recently emerged as an important multiresistant nosocomial pathogen. Defining population structure in this species is required to provide insight into the existence, distribution, and dynamics of specific multiresistant or pathogenic lineages in particular environments, like the hospital. Here, we probe the population structure of E. faecium using Bayesian-based population genetic modeling implemented in Bayesian Analysis of Population Structure (BAPS) software. The analysis involved 1,720 isolates belonging to 519 sequence types (STs) (491 for E. faecium and 28 for Enterococcus faecalis). E. faecium isolates grouped into 13 BAPS (sub)groups, but the large majority (80%) of nosocomial isolates clustered in two subgroups (2-1 and 3-3). Phylogenetic and eBURST analysis of BAPS groups 2 and 3 confirmed the existence of three separate hospital lineages (17, 18, and 78), highlighting different evolutionary trajectories for BAPS 2-1 (lineage 78) and 3-3 (lineage 17 and lineage 18) isolates. Phylogenomic analysis of 29 E. faecium isolates showed agreement between BAPS assignment of STs and their relative positions in the phylogenetic tree. Odds ratio calculation confirmed the significant association between hospital isolates with BAPS 3-3 and lineages 17, 18, and 78. Admixture analysis showed a scarce number of recombination events between the different BAPS groups. For the E. faecium hospital population, we propose an evolutionary model in which strains with a high propensity to colonize and infect hospitalized patients arise through horizontal gene transfer. Once adapted to the distinct hospital niche, this subpopulation becomes isolated, and recombination with other populations declines.
Multiresistant Enterococcus faecium has become one of the most important nosocomial pathogens, causing increasing numbers of nosocomial infections worldwide. Here, we used Bayesian population genetic analysis to identify groups of related E. faecium strains and show a significant association of hospital and farm animal isolates to different genetic groups. We also found that hospital isolates could be divided into three lineages originating from sequence types (STs) 17, 18, and 78. We propose that, driven by the selective pressure in hospitals, the three hospital lineages have arisen through horizontal gene transfer, but once adapted to the distinct pathogenic niche, this population has become isolated and recombination with other populations declines. Elucidation of the population structure is a prerequisite for effective control of multiresistant E. faecium since it provides insight into the processes that have led to the progressive change of E. faecium from an innocent commensal to a multiresistant hospital-adapted pathogen.
MLST; conjugate vaccination; Streptococcus pneumoniae; nasopharyngeal carriage
Defining the propensity of Streptoccocus pneumoniae (SP) serotypes to invade sterile body sites following nasopharyngeal (NP) acquisition has the potential to inform about how much invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) may occur in a typical population with a given distribution of carriage serotypes. Data from enhanced surveillance for IPD in Massachusetts children ≤7 years in 2003/04, 2006/07 and 2008/09 seasons and surveillance of SP NP carriage during the corresponding respiratory seasons in 16 Massachusetts communities in 2003/04 and 8 of the 16 communities in both 2006/07 and 2008/09 were used to compute a serotype specific “invasive capacity (IC)” by dividing the incidence of IPD due to serotype x by the carriage prevalence of that same serotype in children of the same age. A total of 206 IPD and 806 NP isolates of SP were collected during the study period. An approximate 50-fold variation in the point estimates between the serotypes having the highest (18C, 33F, 7F, 19A, 3 and 22F) and lowest (6C, 23A, 35F, 11A, 35B, 19F, 15A, and 15BC) IC was observed. Point estimates of IC for most of the common serotypes currently colonizing children in Massachusetts were low and likely explain the continued reduction in IPD from the pre-PCV era in the absence of specific protection against these serotypes. Invasive capacity differs among serotypes and as new pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are introduced, ongoing surveillance will be essential to monitor whether serotypes with high invasive capacity emerge (e.g. 33F, 22F) as successful colonizers resulting in increased IPD incidence due to replacement serotypes.
Streptoccocus pneumoniae; serotype; invasive capacity
Phenotypic and genetic variation in bacteria can take bewilderingly complex forms even within a single genus. One of the most intriguing examples of this is the genus Neisseria, which comprises both pathogens and commensals colonizing a variety of body sites and host species, and causing a range of disease. Complex relatedness among both named species and previously identified lineages of Neisseria makes it challenging to study their evolution. Using the largest publicly available collection of bacterial sequence data in combination with a population genetic analysis and experiment, we probe the contribution of inter-species recombination to neisserial population structure, and specifically whether it is more common in some strains than others. We identify hybrid groups of strains containing sequences typical of more than one species. These groups of strains, typical of a fuzzy species, appear to have experienced elevated rates of inter-species recombination estimated by population genetic analysis and further supported by transformation experiments. In particular, strains of the pathogen Neisseria meningitidis in the fuzzy species boundary appear to follow a different lifestyle, which may have considerable biological implications concerning distribution of novel resistance elements and meningococcal vaccine development. Despite the strong evidence for negligible geographical barriers to gene flow within the population, exchange of genetic material still shows directionality among named species in a non-uniform manner.
fuzzy species; recombination; Neisseria
Analysis of important human pathogen populations is currently under transition toward whole-genome sequencing of growing numbers of samples collected on a global scale. Since recombination in bacteria is often an important factor shaping their evolution by enabling resistance elements and virulence traits to rapidly transfer from one evolutionary lineage to another, it is highly beneficial to have access to tools that can detect recombination events. Multiple advanced statistical methods exist for such purposes; however, they are typically limited either to only a few samples or to data from relatively short regions of a total genome. By harnessing the power of recent advances in Bayesian modeling techniques, we introduce here a method for detecting homologous recombination events from whole-genome sequence data for bacterial population samples on a large scale. Our statistical approach can efficiently handle hundreds of whole genome sequenced population samples and identify separate origins of the recombinant sequence, offering an enhanced insight into the diversification of bacterial clones at the level of the whole genome. A data set of 241 whole genome sequences from an important pandemic lineage of Streptococcus pneumoniae is used together with multiple simulated data sets to demonstrate the potential of our approach.
Pneumococcal type 1 pilus proteins have been proposed as potential vaccine candidates. Following conjugate pneumococcal vaccination, the prevalence of the pneumococcal type 1 pilus declined dramatically, a decline associated with the elimination of vaccine-type (VT) strains. Here we show that between 2004 and 2007, there has been a significant increase in pilus prevalence, now exceeding rates from the pre-conjugate vaccine era. This increase is primarily due to non-VT strains. These emerging piliated non-VT strains are mostly novel clones, with some exceptions. The rise in pilus type 1 frequency across multiple distinct genetic backgrounds suggests that the pilus may confer an intrinsic advantage.
S. pneumoniae pilus; PCV7; vaccine- and non-vaccine-types
In most pathogens, multiple strains are maintained within host populations. Quantifying the mechanisms underlying strain coexistence would aid public health planning and improve understanding of disease dynamics. We argue that mathematical models of strain coexistence, when applied to indistinguishable strains, should meet criteria for both ecological neutrality and population genetic neutrality. We show that closed clonal transmission models which can be written in an “ancestor-tracing” form that meets the former criterion will also satisfy the latter. Neutral models can be a parsimonious starting point for studying mechanisms of strain coexistence; implications for past and future studies are discussed.
Mathematical models; Stain coexistence; Neutral models; Population genetics; Ecology; Infectious disease epidemiology
Technological advances in high-throughput genome sequencing have led to an enhanced appreciation of the genetic diversity found within populations of pathogenic bacteria. Methods based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertions or deletions (indels) build upon the framework established by multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) and permit a detailed, targeted analysis of variation within related organisms. Robust phylogenetics, when combined with epidemiologically informative data, can be applied to study ongoing temporal and geographical fluctuations in bacterial pathogens. As genome sequencing, SNP detection and geospatial information become more accessible these methods will continue to transform the way molecular epidemiology is used to study populations of bacterial pathogens.
The goals were to assess serial changes in Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes and antibiotic resistance in young children and to evaluate whether risk factors for carriage have been altered by heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7).
Nasopharyngeal specimens and questionnaire/medical record data were obtained from children 3 months to <7 years of age in primary care practices in 16 Massachusetts communities during the winter seasons of 2000–2001 and 2003–2004 and in 8 communities in 2006–2007. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and serotyping were performed with S pneumoniae isolates.
We collected 678, 988, and 972 specimens during the sampling periods in 2000–2001, 2003–2004, and 2006–2007, respectively. Carriage of non-PCV7 serotypes increased from 15% to 19% and 29% (P < .001), with vaccine serotypes decreasing to 3% of carried serotypes in 2006–2007. The relative contribution of several non-PCV7 serotypes, including 19A, 35B, and 23A, increased across sampling periods. By 2007, commonly carried serotypes included 19A (16%), 6A (12%), 15B/C (11%), 35B (9%), and 11A (8%), and high-prevalence serotypes seemed to have greater proportions of penicillin nonsusceptibility. In multivariate models, common predictors of pneumococcal carriage, such as child care attendance, upper respiratory tract infection, and the presence of young siblings, persisted.
The virtual disappearance of vaccine serotypes in S pneumoniae carriage has occurred in young children, with rapid replacement with penicillin-nonsusceptible nonvaccine serotypes, particularly 19A and 35B. Except for the age group at highest risk, previous predictors of carriage, such as child care attendance and the presence of young siblings, have not been changed by the vaccine.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; antibiotic resistance; serotype; colonization
Prior to the epidemic that emerged in Haiti in October of 2010, cholera had not been documented in this country. After its introduction, a strain of Vibrio cholerae O1 spread rapidly throughout Haiti, where it caused over 600,000 cases of disease and >7,500 deaths in the first two years of the epidemic. We applied whole-genome sequencing to a temporal series of V. cholerae isolates from Haiti to gain insight into the mode and tempo of evolution in this isolated population of V. cholerae O1. Phylogenetic and Bayesian analyses supported the hypothesis that all isolates in the sample set diverged from a common ancestor within a time frame that is consistent with epidemiological observations. A pangenome analysis showed nearly homogeneous genomic content, with no evidence of gene acquisition among Haiti isolates. Nine nearly closed genomes assembled from continuous-long-read data showed evidence of genome rearrangements and supported the observation of no gene acquisition among isolates. Thus, intrinsic mutational processes can account for virtually all of the observed genetic polymorphism, with no demonstrable contribution from horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Consistent with this, the 12 Haiti isolates tested by laboratory HGT assays were severely impaired for transformation, although unlike previously characterized noncompetent V. cholerae isolates, each expressed hapR and possessed a functional quorum-sensing system. Continued monitoring of V. cholerae in Haiti will illuminate the processes influencing the origin and fate of genome variants, which will facilitate interpretation of genetic variation in future epidemics.
Vibrio cholerae is the cause of substantial morbidity and mortality worldwide, with over three million cases of disease each year. An understanding of the mode and rate of evolutionary change is critical for proper interpretation of genome sequence data and attribution of outbreak sources. The Haiti epidemic provides an unprecedented opportunity to study an isolated, single-source outbreak of Vibrio cholerae O1 over an established time frame. By using multiple approaches to assay genetic variation, we found no evidence that the Haiti strain has acquired any genes by horizontal gene transfer, an observation that led us to discover that it is also poorly transformable. We have found no evidence that environmental strains have played a role in the evolution of the outbreak strain.
The evolution of bacterial populations has recently become considerably better understood due to large-scale sequencing of population samples. It has become clear that DNA sequences from a multitude of genes, as well as a broad sample coverage of a target population, are needed to obtain a relatively unbiased view of its genetic structure and the patterns of ancestry connected to the strains. However, the traditional statistical methods for evolutionary inference, such as phylogenetic analysis, are associated with several difficulties under such an extensive sampling scenario, in particular when a considerable amount of recombination is anticipated to have taken place. To meet the needs of large-scale analyses of population structure for bacteria, we introduce here several statistical tools for the detection and representation of recombination between populations. Also, we introduce a model-based description of the shape of a population in sequence space, in terms of its molecular variability and affinity towards other populations. Extensive real data from the genus Neisseria are utilized to demonstrate the potential of an approach where these population genetic tools are combined with an phylogenetic analysis. The statistical tools introduced here are freely available in BAPS 5.2 software, which can be downloaded from http://web.abo.fi/fak/mnf/mate/jc/software/baps.html.
The study of bacterial population biology is complicated by the fact that, although bacteria are largely asexual, they can also exchange genetic materials through homologous recombination. Unlike eukaryotes, recombination in bacteria is not an obligatory process. Furthermore, the recombination mechanisms are subject to many biological and ecological factors that can vary even within different populations of the same species. Although increasing evidence for homologous recombination has been found in many bacterial species, determining the frequency of recombination and understanding the influence that it exerts upon the evolution of bacterial populations remains a challenging work. In this article, we provide a dynamic picture of recombination within and between closely related bacteria species. Through an integration of several Bayesian statistical models, our method highlights the importance of a quantitative estimation of recombination. Our analyses of a challenging multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) database demonstrate that combined analyses using both traditional phylogenetic methods, explorative MLST tools and Bayesian population genetic models can together yield interesting biological insights that cannot easily be reached by any of the approaches alone.
The incidence of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has risen dramatically in the U.S., particularly among children. Although Streptococcus pneumoniae colonization has been inversely associated with S. aureus colonization in unvaccinated children, this and other risk factors for S. aureus carriage have not been assessed following widespread use of the heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7). Our objectives were to (1) determine the prevalence of S. aureus and MRSA colonization in young children in the context of widespread use of PCV7; and (2) examine risk factors for S. aureus colonization in the post-PCV7 era, including the absence of vaccine-type S. pneumoniae colonization.
Swabs of the anterior nares (S. aureus) were obtained from children enrolled in an ongoing study of nasopharyngeal pneumococcal colonization of healthy children in 8 Massachusetts communities. Children 3 months to <7 years of age seen for well child or sick visits in primary care offices from 11/03–4/04 and 10/06–4/07 were enrolled. S. aureus was identified and antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed. Epidemiologic risk factors for S. aureus colonization were collected from parent surveys and chart reviews, along with data on pneumococcal colonization. Multivariate mixed model analyses were performed to identify factors associated with S. aureus colonization.
Among 1,968 children, the mean age (SD) was 2.7 (1.8) years, 32% received an antibiotic in the past 2 months, 2% were colonized with PCV7 strains and 24% were colonized with non-PCV7 strains. The prevalence of S. aureus colonization remained stable between 2003–04 and 2006–07 (14.6% vs. 14.1%), while MRSA colonization remained low (0.2% vs. 0.9%, p = 0.09). Although absence of pneumococcal colonization was not significantly associated with S. aureus colonization, age (6–11 mo vs. ≥5 yrs, OR 0.39 [95% CI 0.24–0.64]; 1–1.99 yrs vs. ≥5 yrs, OR 0.35 [0.23–0.54]; 2–2.99 yrs vs. ≥5 yrs, OR 0.45 [0.28–0.73]; 3–3.99 yrs vs. ≥5 yrs, OR 0.53 [0.33–0.86]) and recent antibiotic use were significant predictors in multivariate models.
In Massachusetts, S. aureus and MRSA colonization remained stable from 2003–04 to 2006–07 among children <7 years despite widespread use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. S. aureus nasal colonization varies by age and is inversely correlated with recent antibiotic use.
PspA is a structurally variable surface protein important to the virulence of pneumococci. PspAs are serologically cross-reactive and exist as two major families. In this study, we determined the distribution of PspA families 1 and 2 among pneumococcal strains isolated from the middle ear fluid (MEF) of children with acute otitis media and from nasopharyngeal specimens of children with pneumococcal carriage. We characterized the association between the two PspA families, capsular serotypes, and multilocus sequence types (STs) of the pneumococcal isolates. MEF isolates (n = 201) of 109 patients and nasopharyngeal isolates (n = 173) of 49 children were PspA family typed by whole-cell enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Genetic typing (PCR) of PspA family was done for 60 isolates to confirm EIA typing results. The prevalences of PspA families 1 and 2 were similar among pneumococci isolated from MEF (51% and 45%, respectively) and nasopharyngeal specimens (48% each). Isolates of certain capsule types as well as isolates of certain STs showed statistical associations with either family 1 or family 2 PspA. Pneumococci from seven children with multiple pneumococcal isolates appeared to express serologically different PspA families in different isolates of the same serotype; in three of the children the STs of the isolates were the same, suggesting that antigenic changes in the PspA expressed may have taken place. The majority of the isolates (97%) belonged to either PspA family 1 or family 2, suggesting that a combination including the two main PspA families would make a good vaccine candidate.
Methods for assigning strains to bacterial species are cumbersome and no longer fit for purpose. The concatenated sequences of multiple house-keeping genes have been shown to be able to define and circumscribe bacterial species as sequence clusters. The advantage of this approach (multilocus sequence analysis; MLSA) is that, for any group of related species, a strain database can be produced and combined with software that allows query strains to be assigned to species via the internet. As an exemplar of this approach, we have studied a group of species, the viridans streptococci, which are very difficult to assign to species using standard taxonomic procedures, and have developed a website that allows species assignment via the internet.
Seven house-keeping gene sequences were obtained from 420 streptococcal strains to produce a viridans group database. The reference tree produced using the concatenated sequences identified sequence clusters which, by examining the position on the tree of the type strain of each viridans group species, could be equated with species clusters. MLSA also identified clusters that may correspond to new species, and previously described species whose status needs to be re-examined. A generic website and software for electronic taxonomy was developed. This site allows the sequences of the seven gene fragments of a query strain to be entered and for the species assignment to be returned, according to its position within an assigned species cluster on the reference tree.
The MLSA approach resulted in the identification of well-resolved species clusters within this taxonomically challenging group and, using the software we have developed, allows unknown strains to be assigned to viridans species via the internet. Submission of new strains will provide a growing resource for the taxonomy of viridans group streptococci, allowing the recognition of potential new species and taxonomic anomalies. More generally, as the software at the MLSA website is generic, MLSA schemes and strain databases for other groups of related species can be hosted at this website, providing a portal for microbial electronic taxonomy.
We consider the discovery of recombinant segments jointly with their origins within multilocus DNA sequences from bacteria representing heterogeneous populations of fairly closely related species. The currently available methods for recombination detection capable of probabilistic characterization of uncertainty have a limited applicability in practice as the number of strains in a data set increases.
We introduce a Bayesian spatial structural model representing the continuum of origins over sites within the observed sequences, including a probabilistic characterization of uncertainty related to the origin of any particular site. To enable a statistically accurate and practically feasible approach to the analysis of large-scale data sets representing a single genus, we have developed a novel software tool (BRAT, Bayesian Recombination Tracker) implementing the model and the corresponding learning algorithm, which is capable of identifying the posterior optimal structure and to estimate the marginal posterior probabilities of putative origins over the sites.
A multitude of challenging simulation scenarios and an analysis of real data from seven housekeeping genes of 120 strains of genus Burkholderia are used to illustrate the possibilities offered by our approach. The software is freely available for download at URL .
Epidemiological studies of the naturally transformable bacterial pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae have previously been confounded by high rates of recombination. Sequencing 240 isolates of the PMEN1 (Spain23F-1) multidrug-resistant lineage enabled base substitutions to be distinguished from polymorphisms arising through horizontal sequence transfer. Over 700 recombinations were detected, with genes encoding major antigens frequently affected. Among these were ten capsule switching events, one of which accompanied a population shift as vaccine-escape serotype 19A isolates emerged in the USA following the introduction of the conjugate polysaccharide vaccine. The evolution of resistance to fluoroquinolones, rifampicin and macrolides was observed to occur on multiple occasions. This study details how genomic plasticity within lineages of recombinogenic bacteria can permit adaptation to clinical interventions over remarkably short timescales.
Staphylococcus aureus exhibits tropisms to many distinct animal hosts. While spillover events can occur wherever there is an interface between host species, changes in host tropism only occur with the establishment of sustained transmission in the new host species, leading to clonal expansion. Although the genomic variation underpinning adaptation in S. aureus genotypes infecting bovids and poultry has been well characterized the frequency of switches from one host to another remains obscure. We sought to identify sustained switches in host tropism in the S. aureus population, both anthroponotic and zoonotic, and their distribution over the species phylogeny.
We have used a sample of 3042 isolates, representing 696 distinct MLST genotypes, from a well-established database (www.mlst.net). Using an empirical parsimony approach (AdaptML) we have investigated the distribution of switches in host association between both human and non-human (henceforth referred to as animal) hosts. We reconstructed a credible description of past events in the form of a phylogenetic tree; the nodes and leaves of which are statistically associated with either human or animal habitats, estimated from extant host-association and the degree of sequence divergence between genotypes. We identified 15 likely historical switching events; 13 anthroponoses and two zoonoses. Importantly, we identified two human-associated clade candidates (CC25 and CC59) that have arisen from animal-associated ancestors; this demonstrates that a human-specific lineage can emerge from an animal host. We also highlight novel rabbit-associated genotypes arising from a human ancestor.
S. aureus is an organism with the capacity to switch into and adapt to novel hosts, even after long periods of isolation in a single host species. Based on this evidence, animal-adapted S. aureus lineages exhibiting resistance to antibiotics must be considered a major threat to public health, as they can adapt to the human population.