Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent intracellular bacterium causing the zoonotic disease tularemia. It recurrently causes human and animal outbreaks in northern Europe, including Finland. Although F. tularensis infects several mammal species, only rodents and lagomorphs seem to have importance in its ecology. Peak densities of rodent populations may trigger tularemia outbreaks in humans; however, it is still unclear to which extent rodents or other small mammals maintain F. tularensis in nature. The main objective of this study was to obtain information about the occurrence of F. tularensis in small mammals in Finland. We snap-trapped 547 wild small mammals representing 11 species at 14 locations around Finland during 6 years and screened them for the presence of F. tularensis DNA using PCR analysis. High copy number of F. tularensis-specific DNA was detected in tissue samples of five field voles (Microtus agrestis) originating from one location and 2 years. According to DNA sequences of the bacterial 23S ribosomal RNA gene amplified from F. tularensis–infected voles, the infecting agent belongs to the subspecies holarctica. To find out the optimal tissue for tularemia screening in voles, we compared the amounts of F. tularensis DNA in lungs, liver, spleen, and kidney of the infected animals. F. tularensis DNA was detectable in high levels in all four organs except for one animal, whose kidney was F. tularensis DNA-negative. Thus, at least liver, lung, and spleen seem suitable for F. tularensis screening in voles. Thus, liver, lung, and spleen all seem suitable for F. tularensis screening in voles. In conclusion, field voles can be heavily infected with F. tularensis subsp. holarctica and thus potentially serve as the source of infection in humans and other mammals.
Distribution; Francisella tularensis; PCR; Tularemia; Voles
Waterborne Campylobacter jejuni outbreaks are common in the Nordic countries, and PFGE (pulsed field gel electrophoresis) remains the genotyping method of choice in outbreak investigations. However, PFGE cannot assess the clonal relationship between isolates, leading to difficulties in molecular epidemiological investigations. Here, we explored the applicability of whole genome sequencing to outbreak investigation by re-analysing three C. jejuni strains (one isolated from water and two from patients) from an earlier resolved Finnish waterborne outbreak from the year 2000.
One of the patient strains had the same PFGE profile, as well as an identical overall gene synteny and three polymorphisms in comparison with the water strain. However, the other patient isolate, which showed only minor differences in the PFGE pattern relative to the water strain, harboured several polymorphisms as well as rearrangements in the integrated element CJIE2. We reconstructed the genealogy of these strains with ClonalFrame including in the analysis four C. jejuni isolated from chicken in 2012 having the same PFGE profile and sequence type as the outbreak strains. The three outbreak strains exhibited a paraphyletic relationship, implying that the drinking water from 2000 was probably contaminated with at least two different, but related, C. jejuni strains.
Our results emphasize the capability of whole genome sequencing to unambiguously resolve the clonal relationship between isolates of C. jejuni in an outbreak situation and evaluate the diversity of the C. jejuni population.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-768) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Waterborne outbreak; Campylobacteriosis; Campylobacter jejuni; Whole genome sequencing; PFGE; SNP; Phage; Integrated element; Microevolution
Failures in the drinking water distribution system cause gastrointestinal outbreaks with multiple pathogens. A water distribution pipe breakage caused a community-wide waterborne outbreak in Vuorela, Finland, July 2012. We investigated this outbreak with advanced epidemiological and microbiological methods. A total of 473/2931 inhabitants (16%) responded to a web-based questionnaire. Water and patient samples were subjected to analysis of multiple microbial targets, molecular typing and microbial community analysis. Spatial analysis on the water distribution network was done and we applied a spatial logistic regression model. The course of the illness was mild. Drinking untreated tap water from the defined outbreak area was significantly associated with illness (RR 5.6, 95% CI 1.9–16.4) increasing in a dose response manner. The closer a person lived to the water distribution breakage point, the higher the risk of becoming ill. Sapovirus, enterovirus, single Campylobacter jejuni and EHEC O157:H7 findings as well as virulence genes for EPEC, EAEC and EHEC pathogroups were detected by molecular or culture methods from the faecal samples of the patients. EPEC, EAEC and EHEC virulence genes and faecal indicator bacteria were also detected in water samples. Microbial community sequencing of contaminated tap water revealed abundance of Arcobacter species. The polyphasic approach improved the understanding of the source of the infections, and aided to define the extent and magnitude of this outbreak.
An extensive drinking water-associated gastroenteritis outbreak took place in the town of Nokia in Southern Finland in 2007. 53% of the exposed came down with gastroenteritis and 7% had arthritis-like symptoms (joint swelling, redness, warmth or pain in movement) according to a population-based questionnaire study at 8 weeks after the incident. Campylobacter and norovirus were the main pathogens.
A follow-up questionnaire study was carried out 15 months after the outbreak to evaluate the duration of gastrointestinal and joint symptoms. 323 residents of the original contaminated area were included. The response rate was 53%. Participants were inquired about having gastroenteritis during the outbreak and the duration of symptoms.
Of those with gastroenteritis, 43% reported loose stools and abdominal pain or distension after the acute disease. The prevalence of symptoms declined promptly during the first 3 months but at 15 months, 11% reported continuing symptoms. 32% of the respondents with gastroenteritis reported subsequent arthritis-like symptoms. The disappearance of arthritis-like symptoms was more gradual and they levelled off only after 5 months. 19% showed symptoms at 15 months. Prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms correlated to prolonged arthritis-like symptoms.
High proportion of respondents continued to have arthritis-like symptoms at 15 months after the epidemic. The gastrointestinal symptoms, instead, had declined to a low level.
Neisseria meningitidis is differentiated into 12 distinct serogroups, of which A, B, C, W-135, X, and Y are medically most important and represent an important health problem in different parts of the world. The epidemiology of N. meningitidis is unpredictable over time and across geographic regions. Recent epidemiological surveillance has indicated an increase of serogroup Y invasive meningococcal disease in some parts of Europe as shown in the epidemiological data for 2010 from various European countries previously published in this journal.1 Here, data is reported indicating that the emergence of serogroup Y continued in 2011 in various regions of Europe. The average age of persons affected by N. meningitidis serogroup Y seems to have decreased in some countries in comparison to the previous decade.
epidemiology; Europe; meningococcal disease; serogroup Y; surveillance
Y. enterocolitica biotype (BT) 1A strains are often isolated from human clinical samples but their contribution to disease has remained a controversial topic. Variation and the population structure among the clinical Y. enterocolitica BT 1A isolates have been poorly characterized. We used multi-locus sequence typing (MLST), 16S rRNA gene sequencing, PCR for ystA and ystB, lipopolysaccharide analysis, phage typing, human serum complement killing assay and analysis of the symptoms of the patients to characterize 298 clinical Y. enterocolitica BT 1A isolates in order to evaluate their relatedness and pathogenic potential.
A subset of 71 BT 1A strains, selected based on their varying LPS patterns, were subjected to detailed genetic analyses. The MLST on seven house-keeping genes (adk, argA, aroA, glnA, gyrB, thrA, trpE) conducted on 43 of the strains discriminated them into 39 MLST-types. By Bayesian analysis of the population structure (BAPS) the strains clustered conclusively into two distinct lineages, i.e. Genetic groups 1 and 2. The strains of Genetic group 1 were more closely related (97% similarity) to the pathogenic bio/serotype 4/O:3 strains than Genetic group 2 strains (95% similarity). Further comparison of the 16S rRNA genes of the BT 1A strains indicated that altogether 17 of the 71 strains belong to Genetic group 2. On the 16S rRNA analysis, these 17 strains were only 98% similar to the previously identified subspecies of Y. enterocolitica. The strains of Genetic group 2 were uniform in their pathogenecity-related properties: they lacked the ystB gene, belonged to the same LPS subtype or were of rough type, were all resistant to the five tested yersiniophages, were largely resistant to serum complement and did not ferment fucose. The 54 strains in Genetic group 1 showed much more variation in these properties. The most commonly detected LPS types were similar to the LPS types of reference strains with serotypes O:6,30 and O:6,31 (37%), O:7,8 (19%) and O:5 (15%).
The results of the present study strengthen the assertion that strains classified as Y. enterocolitica BT 1A represent more than one subspecies. Especially the BT 1A strains in our Genetic group 2 commonly showed resistance to human serum complement killing, which may indicate pathogenic potential for these strains. However, their virulence mechanisms remain unknown.
Yersinia enterocolitica biotype 1A; MLST; 16S rRNA gene; yst genes; LPS; Phage typing; Human serum complement killing; Bayesian analysis of population structure; Pathogenicity
Published incidence rates of human salmonella infections are mostly based on numbers of stool culture-confirmed cases reported to public health surveillance. These cases constitute only a small fraction of all cases occurring in the community. The extent of underascertainment is influenced by health care seeking behaviour and sensitivity of surveillance systems, so that reported incidence rates from different countries are not comparable. We performed serological cross-sectional studies to compare infection risks in eight European countries independent of underascertainment.
A total of 6,393 sera from adults in Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and The Netherlands were analysed, mostly from existing serum banks collected in the years 2003 to 2008. Immunoglobulin A (IgA), IgM, and IgG against salmonella lipopolysaccharides were measured by in-house mixed ELISA. We converted antibody concentrations to estimates of infection incidence (‘sero-incidence’) using a Bayesian backcalculation model, based on previously studied antibody decay profiles in persons with culture-confirmed salmonella infections. We compared sero-incidence with incidence of cases reported through routine public health surveillance and with published incidence estimates derived from infection risks in Swedish travellers to those countries.
Sero-incidence of salmonella infections ranged from 56 (95% credible interval 8–151) infections per 1,000 person-years in Finland to 547 (343–813) in Poland. Depending on country, sero-incidence was approximately 100 to 2,000 times higher than incidence of culture-confirmed cases reported through routine surveillance, with a trend for an inverse correlation. Sero-incidence was significantly correlated with incidence estimated from infection risks in Swedish travellers.
Sero-incidence estimation is a new method to estimate and compare the incidence of salmonella infections in human populations independent of surveillance artefacts. Our results confirm that comparison of reported incidence between countries can be grossly misleading, even within the European Union. Because sero-incidence includes asymptomatic infections, it is not a direct measure of burden of illness. But, pending further validation of this novel method, it may be a promising and cost-effective way to assess infection risks and to evaluate the effectiveness of salmonella control programmes across countries or over time.
Salmonella; Europe; Epidemiology; Serology; Modelling; Surveillance; Human
STEC carrying stx1c and hlyA genes can invade the human bloodstream.
Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a pathogen that causes gastroenteritis and bloody diarrhea but can lead to severe disease, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC serotype O78:H– is rare among humans, and infections are often asymptomatic. We detected a sorbitol-fermenting STEC O78:H–stx1c:hlyA in blood and fecal samples of a 2-week-old boy who had bacteremia and HUS and in fecal samples of his asymptomatic family members. The phenotypic and genotypic characteristics and the virulence properties of this invasive STEC were investigated. Our findings demonstrate that contrary to earlier suggestions, STEC under certain conditions can invade the human bloodstream. Moreover, this study highlights the need to implement appropriate diagnostic methods for identifying the whole spectrum of STEC strains associated with HUS.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); cross-contamination; invasive Shiga toxin–producing E. coli; STEC; stx1c; bacteremia; bacteria; zoonoses
The relationship between carriage and the development of invasive meningococcal disease is not fully understood. We investigated the changes in meningococcal carriage in 892 military recruits in Finland during a nonepidemic period (July 2004 to January 2006) and characterized all of the oropharyngeal meningococcal isolates obtained (n = 215) by using phenotypic (serogrouping and serotyping) and genotypic (porA typing and multilocus sequence typing) methods. For comparison, 84 invasive meningococcal disease strains isolated in Finland between January 2004 and February 2006 were also analyzed. The rate of meningococcal carriage was significantly higher at the end of military service than on arrival (18% versus 2.2%; P < 0.001). Seventy-four percent of serogroupable carriage isolates belonged to serogroup B, and 24% belonged to serogroup Y. Most carriage isolates belonged to the carriage-associated ST-60 clonal complex. However, 21.5% belonged to the hyperinvasive ST-41/44 clonal complex. Isolates belonging to the ST-23 clonal complex were cultured more often from oropharyngeal samples taken during the acute phase of respiratory infection than from samples taken at health examinations at the beginning and end of military service (odds ratio [OR], 6.7; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.7 to 16.4). The ST-32 clonal complex was associated with meningococcal disease (OR, 17.8; 95% CI, 3.8 to 81.2), while the ST-60 clonal complex was associated with carriage (OR, 10.7; 95% CI, 3.3 to 35.2). These findings point to the importance of meningococcal vaccination for military recruits and also to the need for an efficacious vaccine against serogroup B isolates.
Verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) is the cause of severe gastrointestinal infection especially among infants. Between 10 and 20 cases are reported annually to the National Infectious Disease Register (NIDR) in Finland. The aim of this study was to identify explanatory variables for VTEC infections reported to the NIDR in Finland between 1997 and 2006. We applied a hurdle model, applicable for a dataset with an excess of zeros.
We enrolled 131 domestically acquired primary cases of VTEC between 1997 and 2006 from routine surveillance data. The isolated strains were characterized by virulence type, serogroup, phage type and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. By applying a two-part Bayesian hurdle model to infectious disease surveillance data, we were able to create a model in which the covariates were associated with the probability for occurrence of the cases in the logistic regression part and the magnitude of covariate changes in the Poisson regression part if cases do occur. The model also included spatial correlations between neighbouring municipalities.
The average annual incidence rate was 4.8 cases per million inhabitants based on the cases as reported to the NIDR. Of the 131 cases, 74 VTEC O157 and 58 non-O157 strains were isolated (one person had dual infections). The number of bulls per human population and the proportion of the population with a higher education were associated with an increased occurrence and incidence of human VTEC infections in 70 (17%) of 416 of Finnish municipalities. In addition, the proportion of fresh water per area, the proportion of cultivated land per area and the proportion of low income households with children were associated with increased incidence of VTEC infections.
With hurdle models we were able to distinguish between risk factors for the occurrence of the disease and the incidence of the disease for data characterised by an excess of zeros. The density of bulls and the proportion of the population with higher education were significant both for occurrence and incidence, while the proportion of fresh water, cultivated land, and the proportion of low income households with children were significant for the incidence of the disease.
We assessed the potential of multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and antimicrobial susceptibility testing for discriminating 104 sporadic and outbreak-related Yersinia enterocolitica (YE) bio/serotype 3-4/O:3 and 2/O:9 isolates. MLVA using six VNTR markers was performed in two separate multiplex PCRs, and the fluorescently labeled PCR products were accurately sized on an automated DNA sequencer.
MLVA discriminated 82 sporadic YE 3-4/O:3 and 2/O:9 strains into 77 types, whereas PFGE with the restriction enzyme NotI discriminated the strains into 23 different PFGE pulsotypes. The discriminatory index for a sporadic strain was 0.862 for PFGE and 0.999 for MLVA. MLVA confirmed that a foodborne outbreak in the city of Kotka, Finland in 2003 had been caused by a multiresistant YE 4/O:3 strain that was distinctly different from those of epidemiologically unrelated strains with an identical PFGE pulsotype. The multiresistance of Y. enterocolitica strains (19% of the sporadic strains) correlated significantly (p = 0.002) with travel abroad. All of the multiresistant Y. enterocolitica strains belonged to four PFGE pulsotypes that did not contain any susceptible strains. Resistance to nalidixic acid was related to changes in codons 83 or 87 that stemmed from mutations in the gyrA gene. The conjugation experiments demonstrated that resistance to CHL, STR, and SUL was carried by a conjugative plasmid.
MLVA using six loci had better discriminatory power than PFGE with the NotI enzyme. MLVA was also a less labor-intensive method than PFGE and the results were easier to analyze. The conjugation experiments demonstrated that a resistance plasmid can easily be transferred between Y. enterocolitica strains. Antimicrobial multiresistance of Y. enterocolitica strains was significantly associated with travel abroad.
In Finland, the first infections caused by the 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus were identified on May 10. During the next three months almost all infections were found from patients who had recently traveled abroad. In September 2009 the pandemic virus started to spread in the general population, leading to localized outbreaks and peak epidemic activity was reached during weeks 43–48.
The nucleotide sequences of the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes from viruses collected from 138 patients were determined. The analyzed viruses represented mild and severe infections and different geographic regions and time periods. Based on HA and NA gene sequences, the Finnish pandemic viruses clustered in four groups. Finnish epidemic viruses and A/California/07/2009 vaccine virus strain varied from 2–8 and 0–5 amino acids in HA and NA molecules, respectively, giving a respective maximal evolution speed of 1.4% and 1.1%. Most amino acid changes in HA and NA molecules accumulated on the surface of the molecule and were partly located in antigenic sites. Three severe infections were detected with a mutation at HA residue 222, in two viruses with a change D222G, and in one virus D222Y. Also viruses with change D222E were identified. All Finnish pandemic viruses were sensitive to oseltamivir having the amino acid histidine at residue 275 of the neuraminidase molecule.
The Finnish pandemic viruses were quite closely related to A/California/07/2009 vaccine virus. Neither in the HA nor in the NA were changes identified that may lead to the selection of a virus with increased epidemic potential or exceptionally high virulence. Continued laboratory-based surveillance of the 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) is important in order to rapidly identify drug resistant viruses and/or virus variants with potential ability to cause severe forms of infection and an ability to circumvent vaccine-induced immunity.
Rabies; human; imported; viruses; lyssavirus; zoonoses; international action; Finland; the Philippines; letter
Yersinia enterocolitica (YE) is the causative agent of yersiniosis. YE encompass strains of diverse pathogenicity: YE biotypes 1B and 2-5 are considered pathogenic, whereas biotype 1A is in general considered nonvirulent. Also YE-like species, which can sometimes be misidentified as YE, are considered nonvirulent.
In order to study differences in clinical picture caused by different YE types and their possible sources a case-control study was conducted in 2006. In this case-control study, 295 case-patients with YE or YE-like finding and their 758 controls responded to the questionnaire about symptoms and possible sources of infection.
Strains of pathogenic YE bio/serotypes 3-4/O:3 or 2/O:9 were found in 18%, YE biotype 1A in 65% and YE -like strains of 17% of the patients. Patients infected with the strains of pathogenic YE bio/serotypes were younger and had fever more often than those with BT 1A who suffered more from vomiting. Symptoms of reactive arthritis were reported by 10% of pathogenic YE infections, 3% of YE BT 1A, and 0.3% of the controls. Eating or tasting raw or medium done pork was a significant risk factor for pathogenic YE bio/serotype infection (OR 6.6; 95% CI 1.7-24.9) as well as eating in a canteen (OR 3.5; 95% CI 1.6-7.9). Imported fruits and berries were associated with increased risk of YE BT 1A finding.
The symptoms of the patients with YE BT 1A differed from yersiniosis caused by the classic pathogenic YE bio/serotypes. In addition, the patients with YE BT 1A had more protracted gastrointestinal disorders and unspecific complaints. Small children were overrepresented in classic pathogenic bio/serotypes while in BT 1A or YE-like species were not found among children younger than two years. This suggests the lacking virulence of the BT 1A strains. We can not, however, rule out the possibility that some strains of genetically heterogeneous group of BT 1A may cause an illness.
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; yersiniosis; foodborne outbreak; Finland; vegetable; carrots; reservoir; shrew; letter
Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus is a rare infection in humans associated with contact with horses or consumption of unpasteurized milk products. On October 23, 2003, the National Public Health Institute was alerted that within one week three persons had been admitted to Tampere University Central Hospital (TaYS) because of S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus septicaemia. All had consumed fresh goat cheese produced in a small-scale dairy located on a farm. We conducted an investigation to determine the source and the extent of the outbreak.
Cases were identified from the National Infectious Disease Register. Cases were persons with S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus isolated from a normally sterile site who had illness onset 15.9-31.10.2003. All cases were telephone interviewed by using a standard questionnaire and clinical information was extracted from patient charts. Environmental and food specimens included throat swabs from two persons working in the dairy, milk from goats and raw milk tank, cheeses made of unpasteurized milk, vaginal samples of goats, and borehole well water. The isolates were characterized by ribotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
Seven persons met the case definition; six had septicaemia and one had purulent arthritis. Five were women; the median age was 70 years (range 54–93). None of the cases were immunocompromized and none died. Six cases were identified in TaYS, and one in another university hospital in southern Finland. All had eaten goat cheese produced on the implicated farm. S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus was isolated from throat swabs, fresh goat cheese, milk tank, and vaginal samples of one goat. All human and environmental strains were indistinguishable by ribotyping and PFGE.
The outbreak was caused by goat cheese produced from unpasteurized milk. Outbreaks caused by S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus may not be detected if streptococcal strains are only typed to the group level. S. equi subsp. zooepidemicus may be a re-emerging disease if unpasteurized milk is increasingly used for food production. Facilities using unpasteurized milk should be carefully monitored to prevent this type of outbreaks.
Clostridium botulinum type B was detected by multiplex PCR in the intestinal contents of a suddenly deceased 11-week-old infant and in vacuum cleaner dust from the patient's household. C. botulinum was also isolated from the deceased infant's intestinal contents and from the household dust. The genetic similarity of the two isolates was demonstrated by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA analysis, thereby confirming that dust may act as a vehicle for infant botulism that results in sudden death.
Between November 2 and 10, 2002 several patients with psoriasis and personnel staying in the health centre in Gran Canaria, Spain fell ill with diarrhoea, vomiting or both. Patient original came from Norway, Sweden and Finland. The patient group was scheduled to stay until 8 November. A new group of patients were due to arrive from 7 November.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted to assess the extent of the outbreak, to identify the source and mode of transmission and to prevent similar problems in the following group.
Altogether 41% (48/116) of persons staying at the centre fell ill. Norovirus infection was suspected based on clinical presentations and the fact that no bacteria were identified. Kaplan criteria were met. Five persons in this outbreak were hospitalised and the mean duration of diarrhoea was 3 days. The consequences of the illness were more severe compared to many other norovirus outbreaks, possibly because many of the cases suffered from chronic diseases and were treated with drugs reported to affect the immunity (methotrexate or steroids).
During the two first days of the outbreak, the attack rate was higher in residents who had consumed dried fruit (adjusted RR = 3.1; 95% CI: 1.4–7.1) and strawberry jam (adjusted RR = 1.9; 95% CI: 0.9–4.1) than those who did not. In the following days, no association was found. The investigation suggests two modes of transmission: a common source for those who fell ill during the two first days of the outbreak and thereafter mainly person to person transmission. This is supported by a lower risk associated with the two food items at the end of the outbreak.
We believe that the food items were contaminated by foodhandlers who reported sick before the outbreak started. Control measures were successfully implemented; food buffets were banned, strict hygiene measures were implemented and sick personnel stayed at home >48 hours after last symptoms.
Internet; Outbreak; Survey; Norovirus; Water supply