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2.  Enhanced surveillance of invasive listeriosis in the Lombardy region, Italy, in the years 2006-2010 reveals major clones and an increase in serotype 1/2a 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:152.
Invasive listeriosis is a rare, life-threatening foodborne disease. Lombardy, an Italian region accounting for 16% of the total population, reported 55% of all listeriosis cases in the years 2006-2010. The aim of our study was to provide a snapshot of listeriosis epidemiology in this region after the implementation of a voluntary laboratory-based surveillance system.
We characterized by serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, multilocus sequence typing and detection of epidemic clone markers, 134 isolates from 132 listeriosis cases, including 15 pregnancy-related cases, occurring in the years 2006-2010 in Lombardy. Demographic and clinical characteristics of cases have also been described.
The mean age of non pregnancy-associated cases was 64.7 years, with 55.9% of cases being older than 65 years. Cases having no underlying medical conditions accounted for 11.6%. The all-cause fatality rate of 83 cases with a known survival outcome was 25.3%.
Serotypes 1/2a and 4b comprised 52.2% and 38.8% of isolates, respectively. Seventy-three AscI pulsotypes and 25 sequence types assigned to 23 clonal complexes were recognized. Moreover, 53 (39.5%) isolates tested positive for the epidemic clone markers. Twelve molecular subtype clusters including at least three isolates were detected, with cluster 11 (1/2a/ST38) including 31 isolates identified during the entire study period. No outbreaks were notified to public health authorities during this period.
The findings of our study proved that epidemiology of listeriosis in Lombardy is characterized by a high prevalence of major clones and the increasing role of serotype 1/2a. Molecular subtyping is an essential tool in the epidemiology and surveillance of listeriosis. Rapid molecular cluster detection could alert about putative outbreaks, thus increasing the chance of detecting and inactivating routes of transmission.
PMCID: PMC3616957  PMID: 23530941
3.  Salmonella bongori Provides Insights into the Evolution of the Salmonellae 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(8):e1002191.
The genus Salmonella contains two species, S. bongori and S. enterica. Compared to the well-studied S. enterica there is a marked lack of information regarding the genetic makeup and diversity of S. bongori. S. bongori has been found predominantly associated with cold-blooded animals, but it can infect humans. To define the phylogeny of this species, and compare it to S. enterica, we have sequenced 28 isolates representing most of the known diversity of S. bongori. This cross-species analysis allowed us to confidently differentiate ancestral functions from those acquired following speciation, which include both metabolic and virulence-associated capacities. We show that, although S. bongori inherited a basic set of Salmonella common virulence functions, it has subsequently elaborated on this in a different direction to S. enterica. It is an established feature of S. enterica evolution that the acquisition of the type III secretion systems (T3SS-1 and T3SS-2) has been followed by the sequential acquisition of genes encoding secreted targets, termed effectors proteins. We show that this is also true of S. bongori, which has acquired an array of novel effector proteins (sboA-L). All but two of these effectors have no significant S. enterica homologues and instead are highly similar to those found in enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC). Remarkably, SboH is found to be a chimeric effector protein, encoded by a fusion of the T3SS-1 effector gene sopA and a gene highly similar to the EPEC effector nleH from enteropathogenic E. coli. We demonstrate that representatives of these new effectors are translocated and that SboH, similarly to NleH, blocks intrinsic apoptotic pathways while being targeted to the mitochondria by the SopA part of the fusion. This work suggests that S. bongori has inherited the ancestral Salmonella virulence gene set, but has adapted by incorporating virulence determinants that resemble those employed by EPEC.
Author Summary
The bacterial genus Salmonella consists of two species: Salmonella enterica and Salmonella bongori. Salmonella are common causes of food poisoning in humans and can also cause more severe disease such as typhoid fever. Most of the Salmonella that cause disease in humans and animals are members of S. enterica. On the other hand S. bongori, is largely associated with reptiles but can cause disease in humans, albeit rarely. We have determined genomes for S. bongori isolates representing its known diversity. Using this, and existing genome information for a large number of different members of S. enterica, we were able to identify functions found in both species, and therefore likely to be ancestral, and differentiate them from those that have been more recently acquired. This information gives us more perspective on how pathogens evolve over the longer-term and allows us to identify functions that are associated exclusively with isolates that commonly cause disease in humans. Our analysis suggests that when S. bongori and S. enterica diverged they evolved to occupy very different niches.
PMCID: PMC3158058  PMID: 21876672
4.  Characterization of Listeria monocytogenes Isolates from Human Listeriosis Cases in Italy ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(9):2925-2930.
The objective of this study was to characterize by serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and PCR amplification of virulence genes and markers of epidemic clones I, II, and III (ECI, ECII, and ECIII) 54 human isolates from apparently sporadic cases of infection occurring in the Lombardy region and in the province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy, in the years 1996 to 2007. Listeria monocytogenes isolates were provided by the clinical microbiology laboratories of the Lombardy region and the “Careggi” Hospital of Florence, Tuscany, Italy. Serotyping, PFGE after digestion with the AscI and ApaI enzymes, and PCR amplification for the inlA, inlC, and inlJ genes and ECI, ECII, and ECIII markers were performed according to procedures described previously. Twenty-five (46.3%) L. monocytogenes isolates were assigned to serotype 1/2a, 23 (42.6%) to serotype 4b, and 6 (11.1%) to serotype 1/2b. Thirty-one AscI pulsotypes were recognized among the 54 human isolates. Eleven molecular subtype clusters, of which eight included indistinguishable pulsotypes and three included closely related pulsotypes, were shared by two to seven isolates. Fifteen isolates exhibited unique AscI pulsotypes. Three groups of clustered isolates and two apparently sporadic isolates generated EC amplicons. All strains tested positive for the inlA, inlC, and inlJ genes. Based on the results of serotyping and molecular typing, there were 11 occasions when L. monocytogenes strains with the same subtype were isolated from more than one listeriosis case. A total of 39 out of 54 isolates (72.2%) were attributed to molecular subtype clusters. The results of the study suggest that routine subtyping of L. monocytogenes strains from human listeriosis cases could allow more-timely detection of outbreaks possibly caused by food-borne isolates from a common source and could lead to control of ongoing food exposure, thus preventing the occurrence of more cases.
PMCID: PMC2738095  PMID: 19605584
5.  Reinterpreting a community outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis in the light of molecular typing 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:237.
In November 2005, a large outbreak due to Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) was observed within children who had eaten their meals at 53 school cafeterias in Florence and the surrounding area. A total of 154 isolates of S. Enteritidis were recovered from human cases between November 2005 and January 2006. All strains were assigned phage type 8 (PT8) and a common XbaI pulsotype.
This paper reports the findings of a molecular epidemiological investigation performed on 124 strains of S. Enteritidis isolated in the years 2005 and 2006 in Florence and the surrounding area, including the epidemic isolates.
One hundred twenty-four human isolates of S. Enteritidis identified in the period January 2005 – December 2006 were submitted to molecular typing by single enzyme – amplified fragment length polymorphism (SE-AFLP).
Molecular subtyping by SE-AFLP yielded five different profiles. In the pre-epidemic phase, type A included 78.4% of isolates, whereas only three (8.1%) belonged to type C. All isolates, but one, of the epidemic phase were indistinguishable and attributed to type C. In the post-epidemic period, a polymorphic pattern of SE-AFLP types was again recognized but type C accounted for 73.3% of the isolates during the first six months of 2006, whereas during the remaining six months type A regained the first place, including 52.0% of the isolates.
The epidemic event was attributed to the emergence and clonal expansion of a strain of S. Enteritidis PT8-SE-AFLP type C. Circulation of the epidemic clone was much more extensive than the surveillance and traditional laboratory data demonstrated.
PMCID: PMC1995211  PMID: 17825103
6.  Shigella sonnei biotype g carrying class 2 integrons in southern Italy: a retrospective typing study by pulsed field gel electrophoresis 
Emergence and global dissemination of multiresistant strains of enteric pathogens is a very concerning problem from both epidemiological and Public Health points of view. Shigella sonnei is the serogroup of Shigella most frequently responsible for sporadic and epidemic enteritis in developed countries. The dissemination is associated most often to human to human transmission, but foodborne episodes have also been described. In recent years the circulation of multiresistant strains of S. sonnei biotype g carrying a class 2 integron has been reported in many countries worldwide. In southern Italy a strain with similar properties has been responsible for a large community outbreak occurred in 2003 in Palermo, Sicily.
The objective of this study was to date the emergence of the biotype g strain carrying the class 2 integron in southern Italy and to evaluate the genetic heterogeneity of biotype g S. sonnei isolated throughout an extended interval of time.
A total of 31 clinical isolates of S. sonnei biotype g identified in southern Italy during the years 1971–2000 were studied. The strains were identified at the serogroup level, characterized by biochemical tests and submitted to antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Molecular typing was performed by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) after digestion of DNA by XbaI. Carriage of class 2 integrons was investigated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with specific primers and confirmed by restriction endonuclease analysis of amplicons.
The 15 isolates of S. sonnei biotype g identified in the decade 1971–1980 showed highly heterogeneous drug resistance profiles and pulsotypes. None of the isolates was simultaneous resistant to streptomycin and trimethoprim and none was class 2 integron positive. On the contrary, this resistance phenotype and class 2 integron carriage were very common among the 16 strains of biotype g identified in the following two decades. Moreover, all the more recent isolates, but one, showed closely related pulsotypes.
Although our findings refer to a limited geographic area, they provide a snapshot of integron acquisition by an enteric pathogen responsible for several outbreaks in the years 2001–2003 in Italy. Molecular typing, indeed, suggests that the emergence of biotype g class 2 integron carrying S. sonnei in southern Italy should be backdated to at least the late 1980s. In the following decades, the circulation of biotype g appears to be sustained by multiresistant highly related strains. Similar trend are described in several countries, but the questions about mechanism of emergence and worldwide spread of this pathogen remain open.
PMCID: PMC1538607  PMID: 16846516
7.  VanB-VanC1 Enterococcus gallinarum, Italy 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2005;11(9):1491-1492.
PMCID: PMC3310630  PMID: 16673519
vancomycin-resistant enterococci; poultry; vanB-vanC1; letter
8.  Identification of Shigella sonnei Biotype g Isolates Carrying Class 2 Integrons in Italy (2001 to 2003) 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(5):2467-2470.
Phenotyping and genotyping have been carried out on 64 epidemic and sporadic isolates of Shigella sonnei identified in Italy in the years 2001 to 2003. Class 2 integron carriage has been also investigated. Isolates from four of the five outbreaks and four of six sporadic cases were biotype g, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis type B, and class 2 integron positive, suggesting emergence and spread of an epidemic clone in Italy.
PMCID: PMC1153732  PMID: 15872285
9.  Snapshot of Moving and Expanding Clones of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Their Global Distribution Assessed by Spoligotyping in an International Study†  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(5):1963-1970.
The present update on the global distribution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex spoligotypes provides both the octal and binary descriptions of the spoligotypes for M. tuberculosis complex, including Mycobacterium bovis, from >90 countries (13,008 patterns grouped into 813 shared types containing 11,708 isolates and 1,300 orphan patterns). A number of potential indices were developed to summarize the information on the biogeographical specificity of a given shared type, as well as its geographical spreading (matching code and spreading index, respectively). To facilitate the analysis of hundreds of spoligotypes each made up of a binary succession of 43 bits of information, a number of major and minor visual rules were also defined. A total of six major rules (A to F) with the precise description of the extra missing spacers (minor rules) were used to define 36 major clades (or families) of M. tuberculosis. Some major clades identified were the East African-Indian (EAI) clade, the Beijing clade, the Haarlem clade, the Latin American and Mediterranean (LAM) clade, the Central Asian (CAS) clade, a European clade of IS6110 low banders (X; highly prevalent in the United States and United Kingdom), and a widespread yet poorly defined clade (T). When the visual rules defined above were used for an automated labeling of the 813 shared types to define nine superfamilies of strains (Mycobacterium africanum, Beijing, M. bovis, EAI, CAS, T, Haarlem, X, and LAM), 96.9% of the shared types received a label, showing the potential for automated labeling of M. tuberculosis families in well-defined phylogeographical families. Intercontinental matches of shared types among eight continents and subcontinents (Africa, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, and the Far East) are analyzed and discussed.
PMCID: PMC154710  PMID: 12734235
10.  Global Distribution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Spoligotypes 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2002;8(11):1347-1349.
We present a short summary of recent observations on the global distribution of the major clades of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, the causative agent of tuberculosis. This global distribution was defined by data-mining of an international spoligotyping database, SpolDB3. This database contains 11,708 patterns from as many clinical isolates originating from more than 90 countries. The 11,708 spoligotypes were clustered into 813 shared types. A total of 1,300 orphan patterns (clinical isolates showing a unique spoligotype) were also detected.
PMCID: PMC2738532  PMID: 12453368
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; spoligotyping
11.  Persistent Endemicity of Salmonella bongori 48:z35:− in Southern Italy: Molecular Characterization of Human, Animal, and Environmental Isolates 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(9):3502-3505.
From 1984 to 1999, we collected 31 isolates of the rare serovar Salmonella bongori 48:z35:− in southern Italy. Twenty-four of the isolates were from cases of acute enteritis in humans. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis showed that all but one of our isolates were at least 80% similar. Our findings suggest that genetically related S. bongori 48:z35:− strains are endemically circulating in southern Italy.
PMCID: PMC130773  PMID: 12202604
12.  Multidrug and Broad-Spectrum Cephalosporin Resistance among Salmonella enterica Serotype Enteritidis Clinical Isolates in Southern Italy 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(7):2662-2665.
From 1992 to 1997, only six sporadic isolates of Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis from patients with cases of gastroenteritis in southern Italy exhibited resistance to broad-spectrum cephalosporins. Five isolates produced SHV-12, and one isolate encoded a class C β-lactamase. The blaSHV-12 gene was located in at least two different self-transferable plasmids, one of which also carried a novel class 1 integron.
PMCID: PMC120561  PMID: 12089302
13.  Salmonella enterica Serotype Typhimurium DT 104 Antibiotic Resistance Genomic Island I in Serotype Paratyphi B 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2002;8(4):430-433.
We have identified Salmonella genomic island I (SGI1) in an isolate of Salmonella enterica serotype Paratyphi B. This antibiotic-resistance gene cluster, which confers multidrug resistance, has been previously identified in S. enterica serotype Typhimurium phage types DT 104 and DT 120 and in S. enterica serotype Agona.
PMCID: PMC2730239  PMID: 11971780
Salmonella genomic island I; Typhimurium DT 104; Paratyphi B
14.  Genetic Diversity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Sicily Based on Spoligotyping and Variable Number of Tandem DNA Repeats and Comparison with a Spoligotyping Database for Population-Based Analysis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(4):1559-1565.
In a previous study, we proposed to associate spoligotyping and typing with the variable number of tandem DNA repeats (VNTR) as an alternative strategy to IS6110-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) for molecular epidemiological studies on tuberculosis. The aim of the present study was to further evaluate this PCR-based typing strategy and to describe the population structure of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in another insular setting, Sicily. A collection of 106 DNA samples from M. tuberculosis patient isolates was characterized by spoligotyping and VNTR typing. All isolates were independently genotyped by the standard IS6110-RFLP method, and clustering results between the three methods were compared. The totals for the clustered isolates were, respectively, 15, 60, and 82% by IS6110-RFLP, spoligotyping, and VNTR typing. The most frequent spoligotype included type 42 that missed spacers 21 to 24 and spacers 33 to 36 and derived types 33, 213, and 273 that, together represented as much as 26% of all isolates, whereas the Haarlem clade of strains (types 47 and 50, VNTR allele 32333) accounted for 9% of the total strains. The combination of spoligotyping and VNTR typing results reduced the number of clusters to 43% but remained superior to the level of IS6110-RFLP clustering (ca. 15%). All but one IS6110-defined cluster were identified by the combination of spoligotyping and VNTR clustering results, whereas 9 of 15 spoligotyping-defined clusters could be further subdivided by IS6110-RFLP. Reinterpretation of previous IS6110-RFLP results in the light of spoligotyping-VNTR typing results allowed us to detect an additional cluster that was previously missed. Although less discriminative than IS6110-RFLP, our results suggest that the use of the combination of spoligotyping and VNTR typing is a good screening strategy for detecting epidemiological links for the study of tuberculosis epidemiology at the molecular level.
PMCID: PMC87970  PMID: 11283087

Results 1-14 (14)