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1.  Genomic Comparison of Escherichia coli O104:H4 Isolates from 2009 and 2011 Reveals Plasmid, and Prophage Heterogeneity, Including Shiga Toxin Encoding Phage stx2 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48228.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048228
PMCID: PMC3486847  PMID: 23133618
2.  Comprehensive Biothreat Cluster Identification by PCR/Electrospray-Ionization Mass Spectrometry 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e36528.
Technology for comprehensive identification of biothreats in environmental and clinical specimens is needed to protect citizens in the case of a biological attack. This is a challenge because there are dozens of bacterial and viral species that might be used in a biological attack and many have closely related near-neighbor organisms that are harmless. The biothreat agent, along with its near neighbors, can be thought of as a biothreat cluster or a biocluster for short. The ability to comprehensively detect the important biothreat clusters with resolution sufficient to distinguish the near neighbors with an extremely low false positive rate is required. A technological solution to this problem can be achieved by coupling biothreat group-specific PCR with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS). The biothreat assay described here detects ten bacterial and four viral biothreat clusters on the NIAID priority pathogen and HHS/USDA select agent lists. Detection of each of the biothreat clusters was validated by analysis of a broad collection of biothreat organisms and near neighbors prepared by spiking biothreat nucleic acids into nucleic acids extracted from filtered environmental air. Analytical experiments were carried out to determine breadth of coverage, limits of detection, linearity, sensitivity, and specificity. Further, the assay breadth was demonstrated by testing a diverse collection of organisms from each biothreat cluster. The biothreat assay as configured was able to detect all the target organism clusters and did not misidentify any of the near-neighbor organisms as threats. Coupling biothreat cluster-specific PCR to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry simultaneously provides the breadth of coverage, discrimination of near neighbors, and an extremely low false positive rate due to the requirement that an amplicon with a precise base composition of a biothreat agent be detected by mass spectrometry.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036528
PMCID: PMC3387173  PMID: 22768032
3.  A rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) model of aerosol-exposure brucellosis (Brucella suis): pathology and diagnostic implications 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2010;59(Pt 6):724-730.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Brucella as a potential bioterrorism threat requiring enhanced diagnostic capacity and surveillance (http://emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/). Successful treatment and management of patients after exposure to biological threat agents depends on accurate and timely diagnosis, but many biothreat agents present with similar, vague clinical signs – commonly referred to as ‘flu-like illness’. Diagnosis of brucellosis is notoriously challenging, especially early in infection, and definitive diagnosis may require invasive methods, e.g. bone marrow biopsy. We studied the pathogenesis of Brucella suis aerosol infection in rhesus macaques in an effort to guide the diagnostic algorithm in case of possible intentional exposure of humans. Rhesus proved to be an excellent model for human brucellosis; the data showed that PCR DNA amplification testing of non-invasive diagnostic samples has the potential to definitively detect a point-source outbreak immediately and for several days after exposure.
doi:10.1099/jmm.0.017285-0
PMCID: PMC3052509  PMID: 20223898
4.  Whole genome single nucleotide polymorphism based phylogeny of Francisella tularensis and its application to the development of a strain typing assay 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:213.
Background
A low genetic diversity in Francisella tularensis has been documented. Current DNA based genotyping methods for typing F. tularensis offer a limited and varying degree of subspecies, clade and strain level discrimination power. Whole genome sequencing is the most accurate and reliable method to identify, type and determine phylogenetic relationships among strains of a species. However, lower cost typing schemes are necessary in order to enable typing of hundreds or even thousands of isolates.
Results
We have generated a high-resolution phylogenetic tree from 40 Francisella isolates, including 13 F. tularensis subspecies holarctica (type B) strains, 26 F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (type A) strains and a single F. novicida strain. The tree was generated from global multi-strain single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data collected using a set of six Affymetrix GeneChip® resequencing arrays with the non-repetitive portion of LVS (type B) as the reference sequence complemented with unique sequences of SCHU S4 (type A). Global SNP based phylogenetic clustering was able to resolve all non-related strains. The phylogenetic tree was used to guide the selection of informative SNPs specific to major nodes in the tree for development of a genotyping assay for identification of F. tularensis subspecies and clades. We designed and validated an assay that uses these SNPs to accurately genotype 39 additional F. tularensis strains as type A (A1, A2, A1a or A1b) or type B (B1 or B2).
Conclusion
Whole-genome SNP based clustering was shown to accurately identify SNPs for differentiation of F. tularensis subspecies and clades, emphasizing the potential power and utility of this methodology for selecting SNPs for typing of F. tularensis to the strain level. Additionally, whole genome sequence based SNP information gained from a representative population of strains may be used to perform evolutionary or phylogenetic comparisons of strains, or selection of unique strains for whole-genome sequencing projects.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-213
PMCID: PMC2767358  PMID: 19811647

Results 1-4 (4)