2011 German Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak: whole-genome phylogeny without alignment.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: A large-scale Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak occurred in Germany from May to July 2011, causing numerous cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) and deaths. Genomes of ten outbreak isolates and a historical O104:H4 strain isolated in 2001 were sequenced using different new generation sequencing platforms. Phylogenetic analyses were performed using various approaches which either are not genome-wide or may be subject to errors due to poor sequence alignment. Also, detailed pathogenicity analyses on the 2001 strain were not available. FINDINGS: We reconstructed the phylogeny of E. coli using the genome-wide and alignment-free feature frequency profile method and revealed the 2001 strain to be the closest relative to the 2011 outbreak strain among all available E. coli strains at present and confirmed findings from previous alignment-based phylogenetic studies that the HUS-causing O104:H4 strains are more closely related to typical enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) than to enterohemorrhagic E. coli. Detailed re-examination of pathogenicity-related virulence factors and secreted proteins showed that the 2001 strain possesses virulence factors shared between typical EAEC and the 2011 outbreak strain. CONCLUSIONS: Our study represents the first attempt to elucidate the whole-genome phylogeny of the 2011 German outbreak using an alignment-free method, and suggested a direct line of ancestry leading from a putative EAEC-like ancestor through the 2001 strain to the 2011 outbreak strain.
Project description:An ongoing outbreak of exceptionally virulent Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 centered in Germany, has caused over 830 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and 46 deaths since May 2011. Serotype O104:H4, which has not been detected in animals, has rarely been associated with HUS in the past. To prospectively elucidate the unique characteristics of this strain in the early stages of this outbreak, we applied whole genome sequencing on the Life Technologies Ion Torrent PGM™ sequencer and Optical Mapping to characterize one outbreak isolate (LB226692) and a historic O104:H4 HUS isolate from 2001 (01-09591). Reference guided draft assemblies of both strains were completed with the newly introduced PGM™ within 62 hours. The HUS-associated strains both carried genes typically found in two types of pathogenic E. coli, enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). Phylogenetic analyses of 1,144 core E. coli genes indicate that the HUS-causing O104:H4 strains and the previously published sequence of the EAEC strain 55989 show a close relationship but are only distantly related to common EHEC serotypes. Though closely related, the outbreak strain differs from the 2001 strain in plasmid content and fimbrial genes. We propose a model in which EAEC 55989 and EHEC O104:H4 strains evolved from a common EHEC O104:H4 progenitor, and suggest that by stepwise gain and loss of chromosomal and plasmid-encoded virulence factors, a highly pathogenic hybrid of EAEC and EHEC emerged as the current outbreak clone. In conclusion, rapid next-generation technologies facilitated prospective whole genome characterization in the early stages of an outbreak.
Project description:In 2011, a Shiga toxin-producing Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC Stx2a+) O104:H4 strain caused a serious outbreak of acute gastroenteritis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) in Germany. In 2013, E. coli O104:H4 isolates were obtained from a patient with HUS and her friend showing only gastrointestinal complaints. The antimicrobial resistance and virulence profiles of these isolates together with three EAEC Stx2a+ O104:H4 isolates from 2011 were determined and compared. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) was performed for detailed characterization and to determine genetic relationship of the isolates. Four additional genomes of EAEC Stx2a+ O104:H4 isolates of 2009 and 2011 available on NCBI were included in the virulence and phylogenetic analysis. All E. coli O104:H4 isolates tested were positive for stx2a, aatA, and terD but were negative for escV. All, except one 2011 isolate, were positive for aggR and were therefore considered EAEC. The EAEC Stx2a+ O104:H4 isolates of 2013 belonged to sequence type (ST) ST678 as the 2011 isolates and showed slightly different resistance and virulence patterns compared to the 2011 isolates. Core-genome phylogenetic analysis showed that the isolates of 2013 formed a separate cluster from the isolates of 2011 and 2009 by 27 and 20 different alleles, respectively. In addition, only a one-allele difference was found between the isolate of the HUS-patient and that of her friend. Our study shows that EAEC Stx2a+ O104:H4 strains highly similar to the 2011 outbreak clone in their core genome are still circulating necessitating proper surveillance to prevent further outbreaks with these potentially pathogenic strains. In addition, WGS not only provided a detailed characterization of the isolates but its high discriminatory power also enabled us to discriminate the 2013 isolates from the isolates of 2009 and 2011 expediting the use of WGS in public health services to rapidly apply proper infection control strategies.
Project description:Ruminants, in particular bovines, are the primary reservoir of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), but whole genome analyses of the current German ESBL-producing O104:H4 outbreak strain of sequence type (ST) 678 showed this strain to be highly similar to enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC). Strains of the EAEC pathotype are basically adapted to the human host. To clarify whether in contrast to this paradigm, the O104:H4 outbreak strain and/or EAEC may also be able to colonize ruminants, we screened a total of 2.000 colonies from faecal samples of 100 cattle from 34 different farms - all located in the HUS outbreak region of Northern Germany - for genes associated with the O104:H4 HUS outbreak strain (stx2, terD, rfbO104, fliCH4), STEC (stx1, stx2, escV), EAEC (pAA, aggR, astA), and ESBL-production (blaCTX-M, blaTEM, blaSHV).The faecal samples contained neither the HUS outbreak strain nor any EAEC. As the current outbreak strain belongs to ST678 and displays an en-teroaggregative and ESBL-producing phenotype, we additionally screened selected strains for ST678 as well as the aggregative adhesion pattern in HEp-2 cells. However, we were unable to find any strains belonging to ST678 or showing an aggregative adhesion pattern. A high percentage of animals (28%) shed STEC, corroborating previous knowl-edge and thereby proving the validity of our study. One of the STEC also harboured the LEE pathogenicity island. In addition, eleven animals shed ESBL-producing E. coli.While we are aware of the limitations of our survey, our data support the theory, that, in contrast to other Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, cattle are not the reservoir for the O104:H4 outbreak strain or other EAEC, but that the outbreak strain seems to be adapted to humans or might have yet another reservoir, raising new questions about the epidemiology of STEC O104:H4.
Project description:In 2011, nearly 4,000 people in Germany were infected by Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 with > 22% of patients developing haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). Genome sequencing showed the outbreak strain to be related to enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), suggesting its high virulence results from EAEC-typical strong adherence and biofilm formation combined to Stx production. Here, we report that the outbreak strain contains a novel diguanylate cyclase (DgcX)--producing the biofilm-promoting second messenger c-di-GMP--that shows higher expression than any other known E. coli diguanylate cyclase. Unlike closely related E. coli, the outbreak strain expresses the c-di-GMP-controlled biofilm regulator CsgD and amyloid curli fibres at 37°C, but is cellulose-negative. Moreover, it constantly generates derivatives with further increased and deregulated production of CsgD and curli. Since curli fibres are strongly proinflammatory, with cellulose counteracting this effect, high c-di-GMP and curli production by the outbreak O104:H4 strain may enhance not only adherence but may also contribute to inflammation, thereby facilitating entry of Stx into the bloodstream and to the kidneys where Stx causes HUS.
Project description:The emergence of novel pathogens poses a major public health threat causing widespread epidemics in susceptible populations. The Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain implicated in a 2011 outbreak in northern Germany caused the highest frequency of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and death ever recorded in a single E. coli outbreak. Therefore, it has been suggested that this strain is more virulent than other pathogenic E. coli (e.g., E. coli O157:H7). The E. coli O104:H4 outbreak strain possesses multiple virulence factors from both Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing E. coli (STEC) and enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), though the mechanism of pathogenesis is not known. Here, we demonstrate that E. coli O104:H4 produces a stable biofilm in vitro and that in vivo virulence gene expression is highest when E. coli O104:H4 overexpresses genes required for aggregation and exopolysaccharide production, a characteristic of bacterial cells residing within an established biofilm. Interrupting exopolysaccharide production and biofilm formation may therefore represent effective strategies for combating future E. coli O104:H4 infections.
Project description:<label>BACKGROUND</label>Escherichia coli O104:H4 that caused the large German outbreak in 2011 is a highly virulent hybrid of enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) and enteroaggregative (EAEC) E. coli. The strain displays "stacked-brick" aggregative adherence to human intestinal epithelial cells mediated by aggregative adherence fimbriae I (AAF/I) encoded on the pAA plasmid. The AAF/I-mediated augmented intestinal adherence might facilitate systemic absorption of Shiga toxin, the major virulence factor of EHEC, presumably enhancing virulence of the outbreak strain. However, the stability of pAA in the outbreak strain is unknown. We therefore tested outbreak isolates for pAA, monitored pAA loss during infection, and determined the impact of pAA loss on adherence and clinical outcome of infection.<label>METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS</label>E. coli O104:H4 outbreak isolates from 170 patients (128 with hemolytic uremic syndrome [HUS] and 42 with diarrhea without HUS) were tested for pAA using polymerase chain reaction and plasmid profiling. pAA-harboring bacteria in stool samples were quantified using colony blot hybridization, and adherence to HCT-8 cells was determined. Isolates from 12 (7.1%) patients lacked pAA. Analyses of sequential stool samples demonstrated that the percentages of pAA-positive populations in the initial stools were significantly higher than those in the follow-up stools collected two to eight days later in disease (P?0.01). This indicates a rapid loss of pAA during infections of humans. The pAA loss was associated with loss of the aggregative adherence phenotype and significantly reduced correlation with HUS (P ?=?0.001).<label>CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE</label>The pAA plasmid can be lost by E. coli O104:H4 outbreak strain in the human gut in the course of disease. pAA loss might attenuate virulence and diminish the ability to cause HUS. The pAA instability has clinical, diagnostic, epidemiologic, and evolutionary implications.
Project description:Escherichia coli O104:H4 was associated with a severe foodborne disease outbreak originating in Germany in May 2011. More than 4000 illnesses and 50 deaths were reported. The outbreak strain was a typical enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) that acquired an antibiotic resistance plasmid and a Shiga-toxin 2 (Stx2)-encoding bacteriophage. Based on whole-genome phylogenies, the O104:H4 strain was most closely related to other EAEC strains; however, Stx2-bacteriophage are mobile, and do not necessarily share an evolutionary history with their bacterial host. In this study, we analyzed Stx2-bacteriophage from the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak isolates and compared them to all available Stx2-bacteriophage sequences. We also compared Stx2 production by an E. coli O104:H4 outbreak-associated isolate (ON-2011) to that of E. coli O157:H7 strains EDL933 and Sakai. Among the E. coli Stx2-phage sequences studied, that from O111:H- strain JB1-95 was most closely related phylogenetically to the Stx2-phage from the O104:H4 outbreak isolates. The phylogeny of most other Stx2-phage was largely concordant with their bacterial host genomes. Finally, O104:H4 strain ON-2011 produced less Stx2 than E. coli O157:H7 strains EDL933 and Sakai in culture; however, when mitomycin C was added, ON-2011 produced significantly more toxin than the E. coli O157:H7 strains. The Stx2-phage from the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak strain and the Stx2-phage from O111:H- strain JB1-95 likely share a common ancestor. Incongruence between the phylogenies of the Stx2-phage and their host genomes suggest the recent Stx2-phage acquisition by E. coli O104:H4. The increase in Stx2-production by ON-2011 following mitomycin C treatment may or may not be related to the high rates of hemolytic uremic syndrome associated with the German outbreak strain. Further studies are required to determine whether the elevated Stx2-production levels are due to bacteriophage or E. coli O104:H4 host related factors.
Project description:UNLABELLED:The large outbreak of diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 in Europe from May to July 2011 highlighted the potential of a rarely identified E. coli serogroup to cause severe disease. Prior to the outbreak, there were very few reports of disease caused by this pathogen and thus little known of its diversity and evolution. The identification of cases of HUS caused by E. coli O104:H4 in France and Turkey after the outbreak and with no clear epidemiological links raises questions about whether these sporadic cases are derived from the outbreak. Here, we report genome sequences of five independent isolates from these cases and results of a comparative analysis with historical and 2011 outbreak isolates. These analyses revealed that the five isolates are not derived from the outbreak strain; however, they are more closely related to the outbreak strain and each other than to isolates identified prior to the 2011 outbreak. Over the short time scale represented by these closely related organisms, the majority of genome variation is found within their mobile genetic elements: none of the nine O104:H4 isolates compared here contain the same set of plasmids, and their prophages and genomic islands also differ. Moreover, the presence of closely related HUS-associated E. coli O104:H4 isolates supports the contention that fully virulent O104:H4 isolates are widespread and emphasizes the possibility of future food-borne E. coli O104:H4 outbreaks. IMPORTANCE:In the summer of 2011, a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea with a high rate of severe complications took place in Europe, caused by a previously rarely seen Escherichia coli strain of serogroup O104:H4. Identification of subsequent infections caused by E. coli O104:H4 raised questions about whether these new cases represented ongoing transmission of the outbreak strain. In this study, we sequenced the genomes of isolates from five recent cases and compared them with historical isolates. The analyses reveal that, in the very short term, evolution of the bacterial genome takes place in parts of the genome that are exchanged among bacteria, and these regions contain genes involved in adaptation to local environments. We show that these recent isolates are not derived from the outbreak strain but are very closely related and share many of the same disease-causing genes, emphasizing the concern that these bacteria may cause future severe outbreaks.
Project description:In 2011, a large outbreak of an unusual bacterial strain occurred in Europe. This strain was characterized as a hybrid of an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC) and a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) strain of the serotype O104:H4. Here, we present a single PCR targeting the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats locus of E. coli O104:H4 (CRISPR(O104:H4)) for specific detection of EAEC STEC O104:H4 strains from different geographical locations and time periods. The specificity of the CRISPR(O104:H4) PCR was investigated using 1,321 E. coli strains, including reference strains for E. coli O serogroups O1 to O186 and flagellar (H) types H1 to H56. The assay was compared for specificity using PCR assays targeting different O104 antigen-encoding genes (wbwC(O104), wzx(O104), and wzy(O104)). The PCR assays reacted with all types of E. coli O104 strains (O104:H2, O104:H4, O104:H7, and O104:H21) and with E. coli O8 and O9 strains carrying the K9 capsular antigen and were therefore not specific for detection of the EAEC STEC O104:H4 type. A single PCR developed for the CRISPR(O104:H4) target was sufficient for specific identification and detection of the 48 tested EAEC STEC O104:H4 strains. The 35 E. coli O104 strains expressing H types other than H4 as well as 8 E. coli strains carrying a K9 capsular antigen tested all negative for the CRISPR(O104:H4) locus. Only 12 (0.94%) of the 1,273 non-O104:H4 E. coli strains (serotypes Ont:H2, O43:H2, O141:H2, and O174:H2) reacted positive in the CRISPR(O104:H4) PCR (99.06% specificity).
Project description:Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O104:H4 caused one of the world's largest outbreaks of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome in Germany in 2011. These strains have evolved from enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) by the acquisition of the Stx2 genes and have been designated enteroaggregative hemorrhagic E. coli. Nucleotide sequencing has shown that the Stx2 gene is carried by prophages integrated into the chromosome of STEC O104:H4. We studied the properties of Stx2-encoding bacteriophages which are responsible for the emergence of this new type of E. coli pathogen. For this, we analyzed Stx bacteriophages from STEC O104:H4 strains from Germany (in 2001 and 2011), Norway (2006), and the Republic of Georgia (2009). Viable Stx2-encoding bacteriophages could be isolated from all STEC strains except for the Norwegian strain. The Stx2 phages formed lysogens on E. coli K-12 by integration into the wrbA locus, resulting in Stx2 production. The nucleotide sequence of the Stx2 phage P13374 of a German STEC O104:H4 outbreak was determined. From the bioinformatic analyses of the prophage sequence of 60,894 bp, 79 open reading frames were inferred. Interestingly, the Stx2 phages from the German 2001 and 2011 outbreak strains were found to be identical and closely related to the Stx2 phages from the Georgian 2009 isolates. Major proteins of the virion particles were analyzed by mass spectrometry. Stx2 production in STEC O104:H4 strains was inducible by mitomycin C and was compared to Stx2 production of E. coli K-12 lysogens.