A comprehensive strategy was developed and validated for the identification of pathogens from closely related near neighbors using both chromosomal and protein biomarkers, with emphasis on distinguishing Yersinia pestis from the ancestral bacterium Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.
Tularemia is a potentially fatal disease that is caused by the highly infectious and zoonotic pathogen Francisella tularensis. Despite the monomorphic nature of sequenced F. tularensis genomes, there is a significant degree of plasticity in the organization of genetic elements. The observed variability in these genomes is due primarily to the transposition of direct repeats and insertion sequence (IS) elements. Since current methods used to genotype F. tularensis are time-consuming and require extensive laboratory resources, IS elements were investigated as a means to subtype this organism. The unique spatial location of specific IS elements provided the basis for the development of a differential IS amplification (DISA) assay to detect and distinguish the more virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (subtypes A.I and A.II) and subsp. holarctica (type B) strains from F. tularensis subsp. novicida and other near neighbors, including Francisella philomiragia and Francisella-like endosymbionts found in ticks. Amplicon sizes and sequences derived from DISA showed heterogeneity within members of the subtype A.I and A.II isolates but not the type B strains. These differences were due to a 312-bp fragment derived from the IS element ISFtu1. Analysis of wild-type F. tularensis isolates by DISA correlated with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotyping utilizing two different restriction endonucleases and provided rapid results with minimal sample processing. The applicability of this molecular typing assay for environmental studies was demonstrated by the accurate identification and differentiation of tick-borne F. tularensis. The described approach to IS targeting and amplification provides new capability for epidemiological investigations and characterizations of tularemia source outbreaks.
To map the distribution of anthrax outbreaks and strain subtypes in Kazakhstan during 1937-2005, we combined geographic information system technology and genetic analysis by using archived cultures and data. Biochemical and genetic tests confirmed the identity of 93 archived cultures in the Kazakhstan National Culture Collection as Bacillus anthracis. Multilocus variable number tandem repeat analysis genotyping identified 12 genotypes. Cluster analysis comparing these genotypes with previously published genotypes indicated that most (n = 78) isolates belonged to the previously described A1.a genetic cluster, 6 isolates belonged to the A3.b cluster, and 2 belonged to the A4 cluster. Two genotypes in the collection appeared to represent novel genetic sublineages; 1 of these isolates was from Krygystan. Our data provide a description of the historical, geographic, and genetic diversity of B. anthracis in this Central Asian region.
Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis consists of two separate populations A1 and A2. This report describes the complete genome sequence of NE061598, an F. tularensis subspecies tularensis A1 isolated in 1998 from a human with clinical disease in Nebraska, United States of America. The genome sequence was compared to Schu S4, an F. tularensis subspecies tularensis A1a strain originally isolated in Ohio in 1941. It was determined that there were 25 nucleotide polymorphisms (22 SNPs and 3 indels) between Schu S4 and NE061598; two of these polymorphisms were in potential virulence loci. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis demonstrated that NE061598 was an A1a genotype. Other differences included repeat sequences (n = 11 separate loci), four of which were contained in coding sequences, and an inversion and rearrangement probably mediated by insertion sequences and the previously identified direct repeats I, II, and III. Five new variable-number tandem repeats were identified; three of these five were unique in NE061598 compared to Schu S4. Importantly, there was no gene loss or gain identified between NE061598 and Schu S4. Interpretation of these data suggests there is significant sequence conservation and chromosomal synteny within the A1 population. Further studies are needed to determine the biological properties driving the selective pressure that maintains the chromosomal structure of this monomorphic pathogen.
A previous surveillance study of human pathogens within ticks collected in the country of Georgia showed a relatively high infection rate for Rickettsia raoultii, R. slovaca, and R. aeschlimannii. These 3 spotted fever group rickettsiae are human pathogens: R. raoultii and R. slovaca cause tick-borne lymphadenopathy (TIBOLA), and R. aeschlimannii causes an infection characterized by fever and maculopapular rash. Three quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays, Rraoul, Rslov, and Raesch were developed and optimized to detect R. raoultii, R. slovaca, and R. aeschlimannii, respectively, by targeting fragments of the outer membrane protein B gene (ompB) using species-specific molecular beacon or TaqMan probes. The 3 qPCR assays showed 100% specificity when tested against a rickettsiae DNA panel (n=20) and a bacteria DNA panel (n=12). The limit of detection was found to be at least 3 copies per reaction for all assays. Validation of the assays using previously investigated tick nucleic acid preparations, which included Rickettsia-free tick samples, tick samples that contain R. raoultii, R. slovaca, R. aeschlimannii, and other Rickettsia spp., gave 100% sensitivity for all 3 qPCR assays. In addition, a total of 65 tick nucleic acid preparations (representing 259 individual ticks) collected from the country of Georgia and the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2009 was tested using the 3 qPCR assays. R. raoultii, R. slovaca, and R. aeschlimannii were not detected in any ticks (n=31) from the Republic of Azerbaijan, but in the ticks from the country of Georgia (n=228) the minimal infection rate for R. raoultii and R. slovaca in Dermacentor marginatus was 10% and 4%, respectively, and for R. aeschlimannii in Haemaphysalis sulcata and Hyalomma spp. it was 1.9% and 20%, respectively.
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