1887

Abstract

Many public health laboratories across the world have implemented whole-genome sequencing (WGS) for the surveillance and outbreak detection of foodborne pathogens. PulseNet-affiliated laboratories have determined that most single-strain foodborne outbreaks are contained within 0–10 multi-locus sequence typing (MLST)-based allele differences and/or core genome single-nucleotide variants (SNVs). In addition to being a food- and travel-associated outbreak pathogen, most spp. cases occur through continuous person-to-person transmission, predominantly involving men who have sex with men (MSM), leading to long-term and recurrent outbreaks. Continuous transmission patterns coupled to genetic evolution under antibiotic treatment pressure require an assessment of existing WGS-based subtyping methods and interpretation criteria for cluster inclusion/exclusion. An evaluation of 4 WGS-based subtyping methods [SNVPhyl, coreMLST, core genome MLST (cgMLST) and whole-genome MLST (wgMLST)] was performed on 9 foodborne-, travel- and MSM-related retrospective outbreaks from a collection of 91 and 232  isolates to determine the methods’ epidemiological concordance, discriminatory power, robustness and ability to generate stable interpretation criteria. The discriminatory powers were ranked as follows: coreMLST<SNVPhyl<cgMLST<wgMLST (range: 0.970–1.000). The genetic differences observed for non-MSM-related spp. outbreaks respect the standard 0–10 allele/SNV guideline; however, mobile genetic element (MGE)-encoded loci caused inflated genetic variation and discrepant phylogenies for prolonged MSM-related outbreaks via wgMLST. The correlation coefficients of wgMLST were also the lowest at 0.680, 0.703 and 0.712 for SNVPhyl, coreMLST and cgMLST, respectively. Plasmid maintenance, mobilization and conjugation-associated genes were found to be the main source of genetic distance inflation in addition to prophage-related genes. Duplicated alleles arising from the repeated nature of IS elements were also responsible for many false cg/wgMLST differences. The coreMLST approach was shown to be the most robust, followed by SNVPhyl and wgMLST for inter-laboratory comparability. Our results highlight the need for validating species-specific subtyping methods based on microbial genome plasticity and outbreak dynamics in addition to the importance of filtering confounding MGEs for cluster detection.

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2021-11-03
2022-05-19
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