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1.  Genomic Analysis Identifies Targets of Convergent Positive Selection in Drug Resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(10):10.1038/ng.2747.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is successfully evolving antibiotic resistance, threatening attempts at tuberculosis epidemic control. Mechanisms of resistance, including the genetic changes favored by selection in resistant isolates, are incompletely understood. Using 116 newly and 7 previously sequenced M. tuberculosis genomes, we identified genomewide signatures of positive selection specific to the 47 resistant genomes. By searching for convergent evolution, the independent fixation of mutations at the same nucleotide site or gene, we recovered 100% of a set of known resistance markers. We also found evidence of positive selection in an additional 39 genomic regions in resistant isolates. These regions encode pathways of cell wall biosynthesis, transcriptional regulation and DNA repair. Mutations in these regions could directly confer resistance or compensate for fitness costs associated with resistance. Functional genetic analysis of mutations in one gene, ponA1, demonstrated an in vitro growth advantage in the presence of the drug rifampicin.
doi:10.1038/ng.2747
PMCID: PMC3887553  PMID: 23995135
2.  Implementation of GenoType MTBDRplus Reduces Time to Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis Therapy Initiation in South Africa 
Introduction of the rapid MTBDRplus diagnostic led to a significant improvement in time to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment initiation. However, delays in laboratory processing, result reporting, and therapy initiation require reduction to have maximum impact on treatment outcomes and transmission interruption.
Background. Diagnosis of drug resistance and timely initiation of multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis therapy are essential to reduce transmission and improve patient outcomes. We sought to determine whether implementation of the rapid MTBDRplus diagnostic shortened the time from specimen collection to patient MDR tuberculosis therapy initiation.
Methods. We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of 197 MDR tuberculosis patients treated at Brewelskloof, a rural tuberculosis hospital in Western Cape Province, South Africa, between 2007 and 2011.
Results. Eighty-nine patients (45%) were tested using conventional liquid culture and drug susceptibility testing (DST) on solid medium and 108 (55%) were tested using the MTBDRplus assay after positive acid-fast bacilli or culture. Median time from sample taken to therapy initiation was reduced from 80 days (interquartile range [IQR] 62–100) for conventional DST to 55 days (IQR 37.5–78) with the MTBDRplus. Although the laboratory processing time declined significantly, operational delays persisted both in the laboratory and the clinical infrastructure for getting patients started on treatment. In multivariate analysis, patients tested using the MTBDRplus test had a reduced risk of starting treatment 60 days or more after sputum collection of 0.52 (P < .0001) compared with patients tested with culture-based DST, after adjustment for smear status and site of disease.
Conclusions. Use of MTBDRplus significantly reduced time to MDR tuberculosis treatment initiation. However, DST reporting to clinics was delayed by more than 1 week due, in part, to laboratory operational delays, including dependence on smear and culture positivity prior to MTBDRplus performance. In addition, once MDR tuberculosis was reported, delays in contacting patients and initiating therapy require improvements in clinical infrastructure.
doi:10.1093/cid/cis920
PMCID: PMC3552527  PMID: 23090928
multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; MTBDRplus; rapid molecular diagnostic
3.  Alcohol, Hospital Discharge, and Socioeconomic Risk Factors for Default from Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis Treatment in Rural South Africa: A Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83480.
Background
Default from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) treatment remains a major barrier to cure and epidemic control. We sought to identify patient risk factors for default from MDR-TB treatment and high-risk time periods for default in relation to hospitalization and transition to outpatient care.
Methods
We retrospectively analyzed a cohort of 225 patients who initiated MDR-TB treatment between 2007 through 2010 at a rural TB hospital in the Western Cape Province, South Africa.
Results
Fifty percent of patients were cured or completed treatment, 27% defaulted, 14% died, 4% failed treatment, and 5% transferred out. Recent alcohol use was common (63% of patients). In multivariable proportional hazards regression, older age (hazard ratio [HR]= 0.97 [95% confidence interval 0.94-0.99] per year of greater age), formal housing (HR=0.38 [0.19-0.78]), and steady employment (HR=0.41 [0.19-0.90]) were associated with decreased risk of default, while recent alcohol use (HR=2.1 [1.1-4.0]), recent drug use (HR=2.0 [1.0-3.6]), and Coloured (mixed ancestry) ethnicity (HR=2.3 [1.1-5.0]) were associated with increased risk of default (P<0.05). Defaults occurred throughout the first 18 months of the two-year treatment course but were especially frequent among alcohol users after discharge from the initial four-to-five-month in-hospital phase of treatment, with the highest default rates occurring among alcohol users within two months of discharge. Default rates during the first two months after discharge were also elevated for patients who received care from mobile clinics.
Conclusions
Among patients who were not cured or did not complete MDR-TB treatment, the majority defaulted from treatment. Younger, economically-unstable patients and alcohol and drug users were particularly at risk. For alcohol users as well as mobile-clinic patients, the early outpatient treatment phase is a high-risk period for default that could be targeted in efforts to increase treatment completion rates.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083480
PMCID: PMC3862731  PMID: 24349518
4.  Epidemic Spread of Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Johannesburg, South Africa 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(6):1818-1825.
Numerous reports have documented isolated transmission events or clonal outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains, but knowledge of their epidemic spread remains limited. In this study, we evaluated drug resistance, strain diversity, and clustering rates in patients diagnosed with multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) Central TB Laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa, between March 2004 and December 2007. Phenotypic drug susceptibility testing was done using the indirect proportion method, while each isolate was genotyped using a combination of spoligotyping and 12-MIRU typing (12-locus multiple interspersed repetitive unit typing). Isolates from 434 MDR-TB patients were evaluated, of which 238 (54.8%) were resistant to four first-line drugs (isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and streptomycin). Spoligotyping identified 56 different strains and 28 clusters of variable size (2 to 71 cases per cluster) with a clustering rate of 87.1%. Ten clusters included 337 (77.6%) of all cases, with strains of the Beijing genotype being most prevalent (16.4%). Combined analysis of spoligotyping and 12-MIRU typing increased the discriminatory power (Hunter Gaston discriminatory index [HGDI] = 0.962) and reduced the clustering rate to 66.8%. Resolution of Beijing genotype strains was further enhanced with the 24-MIRU-VNTR (variable-number tandem repeat) typing method by identifying 15 subclusters and 19 unique strains from twelve 12-MIRU clusters. High levels of clustering among a variety of strains suggest a true epidemic spread of MDR-TB in the study setting, emphasizing the urgency of early diagnosis and effective treatment to reduce transmission within this community.
doi:10.1128/JCM.00200-13
PMCID: PMC3716102  PMID: 23554196
5.  Novel Cause of Tuberculosis in Meerkats, South Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(12):2004-2007.
The organism that causes tuberculosis in meerkats (Suricata suricatta) has been poorly characterized. Our genetic analysis showed it to be a novel member of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and closely related to the dassie bacillus. We have named this epidemiologically and genetically unique strain M. suricattae.
doi:10.3201/eid1912.130268
PMCID: PMC3840885  PMID: 24274183
meerkat; Mycobacterium suricattae; suricate; tuberculosis; South Africa; tuberculosis and other mycobacteria
6.  Mixed-Strain Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infections and the Implications for Tuberculosis Treatment and Control 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  2012;25(4):708-719.
Summary: Numerous studies have reported that individuals can simultaneously harbor multiple distinct strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. To date, there has been limited discussion of the consequences for the individual or the epidemiological importance of mixed infections. Here, we review studies that documented mixed infections, highlight challenges associated with the detection of mixed infections, and discuss possible implications of mixed infections for the diagnosis and treatment of patients and for the community impact of tuberculosis control strategies. We conclude by highlighting questions that should be resolved in order to improve our understanding of the importance of mixed-strain M. tuberculosis infections.
doi:10.1128/CMR.00021-12
PMCID: PMC3485752  PMID: 23034327
7.  Programmatically Selected Multidrug-Resistant Strains Drive the Emergence of Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70919.
Background
South Africa shows one of the highest global burdens of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis (TB). Since 2002, MDR-TB in South Africa has been treated by a standardized combination therapy, which until 2010 included ofloxacin, kanamycin, ethionamide, ethambutol and pyrazinamide. Since 2010, ethambutol has been replaced by cycloserine or terizidone. The effect of standardized treatment on the acquisition of XDR-TB is not currently known.
Methods
We genetically characterized a random sample of 4,667 patient isolates of drug-sensitive, MDR and XDR-TB cases collected from three South African provinces, namely, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Drug resistance patterns of a subset of isolates were analyzed for the presence of commonly observed resistance mutations.
Results
Our analyses revealed a strong association between distinct strain genotypes and the emergence of XDR-TB in three neighbouring provinces of South Africa. Strains predominant in XDR-TB increased in proportion by more than 20-fold from drug-sensitive to XDR-TB and accounted for up to 95% of the XDR-TB cases. A high degree of clustering for drug resistance mutation patterns was detected. For example, the largest cluster of XDR-TB associated strains in the Eastern Cape, affecting more than 40% of all MDR patients in this province, harboured identical mutations concurrently conferring resistance to isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide, ethambutol, streptomycin, ethionamide, kanamycin, amikacin and capreomycin.
Conclusions
XDR-TB associated genotypes in South Africa probably were programmatically selected as a result of the standard treatment regimen being ineffective in preventing their transmission. Our findings call for an immediate adaptation of standard treatment regimens for M/XDR-TB in South Africa.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070919
PMCID: PMC3751934  PMID: 24058399
8.  Population Structure of Mixed Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection Is Strain Genotype and Culture Medium Dependent 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70178.
Background
Molecular genotyping methods have shown infection with more than one Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain genotype in a single sputum culture, indicating mixed infection.
Aim
This study aimed to develop a PCR-based genotyping tool to determine the population structure of M. tuberculosis strain genotypes in primary Mycobacterial Growth Indicator Tubes (MGIT) and Löwenstein–Jensen (LJ) cultures to identify mixed infections and to establish whether the growth media influenced the recovery of certain strain genotypes.
Method
A convenience sample of 206 paired MGIT and LJ M. tuberculosis cultures from pulmonary tuberculosis patients resident in Khayelitsha, South Africa were genotyped using an in-house PCR-based method to detect defined M. tuberculosis strain genotypes.
Results
The sensitivity and specificity of the PCR-based method for detecting Beijing, Haarlem, S-family, and LAM genotypes was 100%, and 75% and 50% for detecting the Low Copy Clade, respectively. Thirty-one (15%) of the 206 cases showed the presence of more than one M. tuberculosis strain genotype. Strains of the Beijing and Haarlem genotypes were significantly more associated with a mixed infection (on both media) when compared to infections with a single strain (Beijing MGIT p = 0.02; LJ, p<0.01) and (Haarlem: MGIT p<0.01; LJ, p = 0.01). Strains with the Beijing genotype were less likely to be with “other genotype” strains (p<0.01) while LAM, Haarlem, S-family and LCC occurred independently with the Beijing genotype.
Conclusion
The PCR-based method was able to identify mixed infection in at least 15% of the cases. LJ media was more sensitive in detecting mixed infections than MGIT media, implying that the growth characteristics of M. tuberculosis on different media may influence our ability to detect mixed infections. The Beijing and Haarlem genotypes were more likely to occur in a mixed infection than any of the other genotypes tested suggesting pathogen-pathogen compatibility.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070178
PMCID: PMC3728311  PMID: 23936157
9.  Rifampicin Reduces Susceptibility to Ofloxacin in Rifampicin-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis through Efflux 
Rationale
Central dogma suggests that rifampicin resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis develops solely through rpoB gene mutations.
Objective
To determine whether rifampicin induces efflux pumps activation in rifampicin resistant M. tuberculosis strains thereby defining rifampicin resistance levels and reducing ofloxacin susceptibility.
Methods
Rifampicin and/or ofloxacin minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were determined in rifampicin resistant strains by culture in BACTEC 12B medium. Verapamil and reserpine were included to determine their effect on rifampicin and ofloxacin susceptibility. RT-qPCR was applied to assess expression of efflux pump/transporter genes after rifampicin exposure. To determine whether verapamil could restore susceptibility to first-line drugs, BALB/c mice were infected with a MDR-TB strain and treated with first-line drugs with/without verapamil.
Measurements and Main Findings
Rifampicin MICs varied independently of rpoB mutation and genetic background. Addition reserpine and verapamil significantly restored rifampicin susceptibility (p = 0.0000). RT-qPCR demonstrated that rifampicin induced differential expression of efflux/transporter genes in MDR-TB isolates. Incubation of rifampicin mono-resistant strains in rifampicin (2 μg/ml) for 7 days induced ofloxacin resistance (MIC> 2 μg/ml) in strains with an rpoB531 mutation. Ofloxacin susceptibility was restored by exposure to efflux pump inhibitors. Studies in BALB/c mice showed that verapamil in combination with first-line drugs significantly reduced pulmonary CFUs after 1 and 2 months treatment (p < 0.05).
Conclusion
Exposure of rifampicin resistant M. tuberculosis strains to rifampicin can potentially compromise the efficacy of the second-line treatment regimens containing ofloxacin, thereby emphasising the need for rapid diagnostics to guide treatment. Efflux pump inhibitors have the potential to improve the efficacy of anti-tuberculosis drug treatment.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201011-1924OC
PMCID: PMC3698754  PMID: 21512166
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; drug resistance; rifampicin; efflux pumps; cross resistance
11.  Drug-Associated Adverse Events and Their Relationship with Outcomes in Patients Receiving Treatment for Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63057.
Background
Treatment-related outcomes in patients with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) are poor. However, data about the type, frequency and severity of presumed drug-associated adverse events (AEs) and their association with treatment-related outcomes in patients with XDR-TB are scarce.
Methods
Case records of 115 South-African XDR-TB patients were retrospectively reviewed by a trained researcher. AEs were estimated and graded according to severity [grade 0 = none; grade 1–2 = mild to moderate; and grade 3–5 = severe (drug stopped, life-threatening or death)].
Findings
161 AEs were experienced by 67/115(58%) patients: 23/67(34%) required modification of treatment, the offending drug was discontinued in 19/67(28%), reactions were life-threatening in 2/67(3.0%), and 6/67(9.0%) died. ∼50% of the patients were still on treatment at the time of data capture. Sputum culture-conversion was less likely in those with severe (grade 3–5) vs. grade 0–2 AEs [2/27(7%) vs. 24/88(27%); p = 0.02]. The type, frequency and severity of AEs was similar in HIV-infected and uninfected patients. Capreomycin, which was empirically administered in most cases, was withdrawn in 14/104(14%) patients, implicated in (14/34) 41% of the total drug withdrawals, and was associated with all 6 deaths in the severe AE group (renal failure in five patients and hypokalemia in one patient).
Conclusion
Drug-associated AEs occur commonly with XDR-TB treatment, are often severe, frequently interrupt therapy, and negatively impact on culture conversion outcomes. These preliminary data inform on the need for standardised strategies (including pre-treatment counselling, early detection, monitoring, and follow-up) and less toxic drugs to optimally manage patients with XDR-TB.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063057
PMCID: PMC3646906  PMID: 23667572
12.  The Rationale for Using Rifabutin in the Treatment of MDR and XDR Tuberculosis Outbreaks 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59414.
Genetically related Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains with alterations at codon 516 in the rpoB gene were observed amongst a substantial number of patients with drug resistant tuberculosis in the Eastern Cape Province (ECP) of South Africa. Mutations at codon 516 are usually associated with lower level rifampicin (RIF) resistance, while susceptibility to rifabutin (RFB) remains intact. This study was conducted to assess the rationale for using RFB as a substitution for RIF in the treatment of MDR and XDR tuberculosis outbreaks. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 34 drug resistant clinical isolates of M tuberculosis were determined by MGIT 960 and correlated with rpoB mutations. RFB MICs ranged from 0.125 to 0.25 µg/ml in the 34 test isolates thereby confirming phenotypic susceptibility as per critical concentration (CC) of 0.5 µg/ml. The corresponding RIF MICs ranged between 5 and 15 µg/ml, which is well above the CC of 1.0 µg/ml. Molecular-based drug susceptibility testing provides important pharmacogenetic insight by demonstrating a direct correlation between defined rpoB mutation and the level of RFB susceptibility. We suggest that isolates with marginally reduced susceptibility as compared to the epidemiological cut-off for wild-type strains (0.064 µg/ml), but lower than the current CC (≤0.5 µg/ml), are categorised as intermediate. Two breakpoints (0.064 µg/ml and 0.5 µg/ml) are recommended to distinguish between susceptible, intermediate and RFB resistant strains. This concept may assist clinicians and policy makers to make objective therapeutic decisions, especially in situations where therapeutic options are limited. The use of RFB in the ECP may improve therapeutic success and consequently minimise the risk of ongoing transmission of drug resistant M. tuberculosis strains.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059414
PMCID: PMC3602005  PMID: 23527189
13.  Reverse Genetics Analysis of Poxvirus Intermediate Transcription Factors 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(17):9514-9519.
Vaccinia virus transcription is regulated in three stages. An intermediate transcription factor, comprised of virus-encoded polypeptides A8 and A23, was previously identified by in vitro analyses. To investigate its role, we engineered cells that stably expressed both subunits and complemented the replication of A8 and A23 deletion mutant viruses. Without A8 or A23, viral early gene expression and DNA replication occurred but intermediate and late gene expression and resolution of genome concatemers were not detected.
doi:10.1128/JVI.06902-11
PMCID: PMC3416170  PMID: 22740406
14.  Emergence and Spread of Extensively and Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, South Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(3):449-455.
Factors driving the increase in drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, are not understood. A convenience sample of 309 drug-susceptible and 342 multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB isolates, collected July 2008–July 2009, were characterized by spoligotyping, DNA fingerprinting, insertion site mapping, and targeted DNA sequencing. Analysis of molecular-based data showed diverse genetic backgrounds among drug-sensitive and MDR TB sensu stricto isolates in contrast to restricted genetic backgrounds among pre–extensively drug-resistant (pre-XDR) TB and XDR TB isolates. Second-line drug resistance was significantly associated with the atypical Beijing genotype. DNA fingerprinting and sequencing demonstrated that the pre-XDR and XDR atypical Beijing isolates evolved from a common progenitor; 85% and 92%, respectively, were clustered, indicating transmission. Ninety-three percent of atypical XDR Beijing isolates had mutations that confer resistance to 10 anti-TB drugs, and some isolates also were resistant to para-aminosalicylic acid. These findings suggest the emergence of totally drug-resistant TB.
doi:10.3201//EID1903.120246
PMCID: PMC3647643  PMID: 23622714
Tuberculosis; TB; MDR TB; XDR-TB; extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis; totally drug resistant TB; South Africa; mycobacteria; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; bacteria
15.  Characterization of Mycobacterium orygis 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(10):653-5.
doi:10.3201/eid1810.120569
PMCID: PMC3471637  PMID: 23017199
Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex; Mycobacterium orygis; oryx bacillus; genotyping; characterization; bacteria; tuberculosis and other mycobacteria
16.  High yield of culture-based diagnosis in a TB-endemic setting 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:218.
Background
In most of the world, microbiologic diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) is limited to microscopy. Recent guidelines recommend culture-based diagnosis where feasible.
Methods
In order to evaluate the relative and absolute incremental diagnostic yield of culture-based diagnosis in a high-incidence community in Cape Town, South Africa, subjects evaluated for suspected TB had their samples processed for microscopy and culture over a 21 month period.
Results
For 2537 suspect episodes with 2 smears and 2 cultures done, 20.0% (508) had at least one positive smear and 29.9% (760) had at least one positive culture. One culture yielded 1.8 times more cases as 1 smear (relative yield), or an increase of 12.0% (absolute yield). Based on the latter value, the number of cultures needed to diagnose (NND) one extra case of TB was 8, compared to 19 if second specimens were submitted for microscopy.
Conclusion
In a high-burden setting, the introduction of culture can markedly increase TB diagnosis over microscopy. The concept of number needed to diagnose can help in comparing incremental yield of diagnosis methods. Although new promising diagnostic molecular methods are being implemented, TB culture is still the gold standard.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-218
PMCID: PMC3482573  PMID: 22978323
Tuberculosis; Diagnosis; Culture; Microscopy
17.  Population Structure of Multi- and Extensively Drug-Resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis Strains in South Africa 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(3):995-1002.
Genotyping of multidrug-resistant (MDR) Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains isolated from tuberculosis (TB) patients in four South African provinces (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng) revealed a distinct population structure of the MDR strains in all four regions, despite the evidence of substantial human migration between these settings. In all analyzed provinces, a negative correlation between strain diversity and an increasing level of drug resistance (from MDR-TB to extensively drug-resistant TB [XDR-TB]) was observed. Strains predominating in XDR-TB in the Western and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces were strongly associated with harboring an inhA promoter mutation, potentially suggesting a role of these mutations in XDR-TB development in South Africa. Approximately 50% of XDR-TB cases detected in the Western Cape were due to strains probably originating from the Eastern Cape. This situation may illustrate how failure of efficient health care delivery in one setting can burden health clinics in other areas.
doi:10.1128/JCM.05832-11
PMCID: PMC3295122  PMID: 22170931
18.  Treatment Outcomes of Isoniazid-Resistant Tuberculosis Patients, Western Cape Province, South Africa 
We report treatment outcomes from a retrospective cohort of patients with isoniazid-monoresistant tuberculosis in rural South Africa. Sixteen percent of patients had poor outcomes, 61% of whom progressed to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. These data reveal the need for early identification and aggressive follow-up of isoniazid monoresistance to increase treatment success.
doi:10.1093/cid/cir406
PMCID: PMC3202325  PMID: 21810750
19.  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
20.  Xpert MTB/RIF for Rapid Diagnosis of Tuberculous Lymphadenitis from Fine-Needle-Aspiration Biopsy Specimens ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(11):3967-3970.
This study demonstrates the excellent diagnostic accuracy of the Xpert MTB/RIF test in patients with tuberculous lymphadenitis. The test sensitivity and specificity were 96.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 86.6 to 100%) and 88.9% (95% CI, 69.6 to 100%), respectively, and it correctly identified 6/6 (100%) of the cytology smear-negative/culture-positive cases and 1 of 2 (50%) rifampin-resistant cases.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01310-11
PMCID: PMC3209093  PMID: 21880965
21.  Comparative Analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis pe and ppe Genes Reveals High Sequence Variation and an Apparent Absence of Selective Constraints 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e30593.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) genomes contain 2 large gene families termed pe and ppe. The function of pe/ppe proteins remains enigmatic but studies suggest that they are secreted or cell surface associated and are involved in bacterial virulence. Previous studies have also shown that some pe/ppe genes are polymorphic, a finding that suggests involvement in antigenic variation. Using comparative sequence analysis of 18 publicly available MTBC whole genome sequences, we have performed alignments of 33 pe (excluding pe_pgrs) and 66 ppe genes in order to detect the frequency and nature of genetic variation. This work has been supplemented by whole gene sequencing of 14 pe/ppe (including 5 pe_pgrs) genes in a cohort of 40 diverse and well defined clinical isolates covering all the main lineages of the M. tuberculosis phylogenetic tree. We show that nsSNP's in pe (excluding pgrs) and ppe genes are 3.0 and 3.3 times higher than in non-pe/ppe genes respectively and that numerous other mutation types are also present at a high frequency. It has previously been shown that non-pe/ppe M. tuberculosis genes display a remarkably low level of purifying selection. Here, we also show that compared to these genes those of the pe/ppe families show a further reduction of selection pressure that suggests neutral evolution. This is inconsistent with the positive selection pressure of “classical” antigenic variation. Finally, by analyzing such a large number of genes we were able to detect large differences in mutation type and frequency between both individual genes and gene sub-families. The high variation rates and absence of selective constraints provides valuable insights into potential pe/ppe function. Since pe/ppe proteins are highly antigenic and have been studied as potential vaccine components these results should also prove informative for aspects of M. tuberculosis vaccine design.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030593
PMCID: PMC3319526  PMID: 22496726
22.  Comparison of Quantitative Techniques including Xpert MTB/RIF to Evaluate Mycobacterial Burden 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28815.
Introduction
Accurate quantification of mycobacterial load is important for the evaluation of patient infectiousness, disease severity and monitoring treatment response in human and in-vitro laboratory models of disease. We hypothesized that newer techniques would perform as well as solid media culture to quantify mycobacterial burden in laboratory specimens.
Methods
We compared the turn-around-time, detection-threshold, dynamic range, reproducibility, relative discriminative ability, of 4 mycobacterial load determination techniques: automated liquid culture (BACTEC-MGIT-960), [3H]-uracil incorporation assays, luciferase-reporter construct bioluminescence, and quantitative PCR(Xpert -MTB/RIF) using serial dilutions of Mycobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37RV. Mycobacterial colony-forming-units(CFU) using 7H10-Middlebrook solid media served as the reference standard.
Results
All 4 assays correlated well with the reference standard, however, bioluminescence and uracil assays had a detection threshold ≥1×103 organisms. By contrast, BACTEC-MGIT-960 liquid culture, although only providing results in days, was user-friendly, had the lowest detection threshold (<10 organisms), the greatest discriminative ability (1 vs. 10 organisms; p = 0.02), and the best reproducibility (coefficient of variance of 2% vs. 38% compared to uracil incorporation; p = 0.02). Xpert-MTB/RIF correlated well with mycobacterial load, had a rapid turn-around-time (<2 hours), was user friendly, but had a detection limit of ∼100 organisms.
Conclusions
Choosing a technique to quantify mycobacterial burden for laboratory or clinical research depends on availability of resources and the question being addressed. Automated liquid culture has good discriminative ability and low detection threshold but results are only obtained in days. Xpert MTB/RIF provides rapid quantification of mycobacterial burden, but has a poorer discrimination and detection threshold.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028815
PMCID: PMC3245241  PMID: 22216117
23.  SNP/RD Typing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing Strains Reveals Local and Worldwide Disseminated Clonal Complexes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28365.
The Beijing strain is one of the most successful genotypes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis worldwide and appears to be highly homogenous according to existing genotyping methods. To type Beijing strains reliably we developed a robust typing scheme using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and regions of difference (RDs) derived from whole-genome sequencing data of eight Beijing strains. SNP/RD typing of 259 M. tuberculosis isolates originating from 45 countries worldwide discriminated 27 clonal complexes within the Beijing genotype family. A total of 16 Beijing clonal complexes contained more than one isolate of known origin, of which two clonal complexes were strongly associated with South African origin. The remaining 14 clonal complexes encompassed isolates from different countries. Even highly resolved clonal complexes comprised isolates from distinct geographical sites. Our results suggest that Beijing strains spread globally on multiple occasions and that the tuberculosis epidemic caused by the Beijing genotype is at least partially driven by modern migration patterns. The SNPs and RDs presented in this study will facilitate future molecular epidemiological and phylogenetic studies on Beijing strains.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028365
PMCID: PMC3230589  PMID: 22162765
24.  The non-clonality of drug resistance in Beijing-genotype isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the Western Cape of South Africa 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:670.
Background
The Beijing genotype of M. tuberculosis is a virulent strain that is disseminating worldwide and has a strong association with drug resistance. In the Western Cape of South Africa, epidemiological studies have identified the R220 cluster of the Beijing genotype as a major contributor to a recent outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Although the outbreak is considered to be due to clonal transmission, the relationship among drug resistant isolates has not yet been established.
Results
To better understand the evolution of drug resistance among these strains, 14 drug-resistant clinical isolates of the Beijing genotype were sequenced by whole-genome sequencing, including eight from R220 and six from a more ancestral Beijing cluster, R86, for comparison. While each cluster shares a distinct resistance mutation for isoniazid, mapping of other drug-resistance mutations onto a phylogenetic tree constructed from single nucleotide polymorphisms shows that resistance mutations to many drugs have arisen multiple times independently within each cluster of isolates. Thus, drug resistance among these isolates appears to be acquired, not clonally derived. This observation suggests that, although the Beijing genotype as a whole might have selective advantages enabling its rapid dissemination, the XDR isolates are relatively less fit and do not propagate well. Although it has been hypothesized that the increased frequency of drug resistance in some Beijing lineages might be caused by a mutator phenotype, no significant shift in synonymous substitution patterns is observed in the genomes.
Conclusion
While MDR-TB is spreading by transmission in the Western Cape, our data suggests that further drug resistance (i.e. XDR-TB) at this stage is acquired.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-670
PMCID: PMC3091785  PMID: 21110864
25.  Proteogenomic Analysis of Polymorphisms and Gene Annotation Divergences in Prokaryotes using a Clustered Mass Spectrometry-Friendly Database* 
Molecular & Cellular Proteomics : MCP  2010;10(1):M110.002527.
Precise annotation of genes or open reading frames is still a difficult task that results in divergence even for data generated from the same genomic sequence. This has an impact in further proteomic studies, and also compromises the characterization of clinical isolates with many specific genetic variations that may not be represented in the selected database. We recently developed software called multistrain mass spectrometry prokaryotic database builder (MSMSpdbb) that can merge protein databases from several sources and be applied on any prokaryotic organism, in a proteomic-friendly approach. We generated a database for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (using three strains of Mycobacterium bovis and five of M. tuberculosis), and analyzed data collected from two laboratory strains and two clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis. We identified 2561 proteins, of which 24 were present in M. tuberculosis H37Rv samples, but not annotated in the M. tuberculosis H37Rv genome. We were also able to identify 280 nonsynonymous single amino acid polymorphisms and confirm 367 translational start sites. As a proof of concept we applied the database to whole-genome DNA sequencing data of one of the clinical isolates, which allowed the validation of 116 predicted single amino acid polymorphisms and the annotation of 131 N-terminal start sites. Moreover we identified regions not present in the original M. tuberculosis H37Rv sequence, indicating strain divergence or errors in the reference sequence. In conclusion, we demonstrated the potential of using a merged database to better characterize laboratory or clinical bacterial strains.
doi:10.1074/mcp.M110.002527
PMCID: PMC3013451  PMID: 21030493

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