Anthrax, caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis, remains endemic in many developing countries where it has significant impacts on the health and livelihoods of livestock-keeping communities. While the global genomic diversity of B. anthracisis is well characterised, few studies have quantified its diversity in endemic settings at more local scales, where this information could be critical for elucidating transmission dynamics and guiding control efforts. We collected samples from 526 anthrax-suspected animal carcasses between 2016 and 2018 in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania. Seventy five percent were confirmed positive through qPCR, suggesting that anthrax is responsible for a large proportion of sudden deaths in livestock in this area. A subset of positive samples were cultured for whole genome sequencing (n = 73), including multiple isolates from individual carcasses. All sequenced isolates belonged to the Ancient A lineage of B. anthracis, a common strain in southeastern Africa. No clear spatial clustering was observed, possibly reflecting extensive animal movement related to local nomadic practices. Moreover, high levels of within-host diversity were observed which suggests that cases commonly result from simultaneous infection with multiple strains. Additionally, we trialed a targeted sequence capture approach on 93 samples. This was successful in recovering >80% of the chromosomal genome at > 15X coverage from 60% of samples tested, thus representing a valuable tool for culture-free sequencing of this high-risk bacterium. Our work paves the way for integrating genomic data for B. anthracis into epidemiological studies and monitoring of control programs in endemic areas worldwide.

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