Mycobacterium ulcerans fails to infect through skin abrasions in a guinea pig infection model: implications for transmission.
ABSTRACT: Transmission of M. ulcerans, the etiological agent of Buruli ulcer, from the environment to humans remains an enigma despite decades of research. Major transmission hypotheses propose 1) that M. ulcerans is acquired through an insect bite or 2) that bacteria enter an existing wound through exposure to a contaminated environment. In studies reported here, a guinea pig infection model was developed to determine whether Buruli ulcer could be produced through passive inoculation of M. ulcerans onto a superficial abrasion. The choice of an abrasion model was based on the fact that most bacterial pathogens infecting the skin are able to infect an open lesion, and that abrasions are extremely common in children. Our studies show that after a 90d infection period, an ulcer was present at intra-dermal injection sites of all seven animals infected, whereas topical application of M. ulcerans failed to establish an infection. Mycobacterium ulcerans was cultured from all injection sites whereas infected abrasion sites healed and were culture negative. A 14d experiment was conducted to determine how long organisms persisted after inoculation. Mycobacterium ulcerans was isolated from abrasions at one hour and 24 hours post infection, but cultures from later time points were negative. Abrasion sites were qPCR positive up to seven days post infection, but negative at later timepoints. In contrast, M. ulcerans DNA was detected at intra-dermal injection sites throughout the study. M. ulcerans was cultured from injection sites at each time point. These results suggest that injection of M. ulcerans into the skin greatly facilitates infection and lends support for the role of an invertebrate vector or other route of entry such as a puncture wound or deep laceration where bacteria would be contained within the lesion. Infection through passive inoculation into an existing abrasion appears a less likely route of entry.
Project description:Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer, is an emerging environmental bacterium in Australia and West Africa. The primary risk factor associated with Buruli ulcer is proximity to slow moving water. Environmental constraints for disease are shown by the absence of infection in arid regions of infected countries. A particularly mysterious aspect of Buruli ulcer is the fact that endemic and non-endemic villages may be only a few kilometers apart within the same watershed. Recent studies suggest that aquatic invertebrate species may serve as reservoirs for M. ulcerans, although transmission pathways remain unknown. Systematic studies of the distribution of M. ulcerans in the environment using standard ecological methods have not been reported. Here we present results from the first study based on random sampling of endemic and non-endemic sites. In this study PCR-based methods, along with biofilm collections, have been used to map the presence of M. ulcerans within 26 aquatic sites in Ghana. Results suggest that M. ulcerans is present in both endemic and non-endemic sites and that variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) profiling can be used to follow chains of transmission from the environment to humans. Our results suggesting that the distribution of M. ulcerans is far broader than the distribution of human disease is characteristic of environmental pathogens. These findings imply that focal demography, along with patterns of human water contact, may play a major role in transmission of Buruli ulcer.
Project description:Buruli ulcer, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is highly endemic in West Africa. While the mode of transmission is unknown, many studies associate Buruli ulcer with different types of water exposure. We present results from the largest study to date to test for M. ulcerans in aquatic sites and identify environmental attributes associated with its presence. Environmental samples from 98 aquatic sites in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Volta regions of Ghana were tested for the presence of M. ulcerans DNA by polymerase chain reaction. The proportion of aquatic sites positive for M. ulcerans varied by region: Ashanti 66% (N = 39), Greater Accra 34% (N = 29), and Volta 0% (N = 30). We explored the spatial distribution of M. ulcerans positive and negative water bodies and found no significant clusters. We also determined both highly localized water attributes and broad scale remotely sensed land cover and terrain environmental characteristics associated with M. ulcerans presence through logistic regression. Our results concur with published results regarding conditions suitable for M. ulcerans growth and associations with Buruli ulcer disease burden with regards to water characteristics and disturbed environments, but differ from others with regards to spatial associations and topographic effects such as elevation and wetness. While our results suggest M. ulcerans is an environmental organism existing in a specific ecological niche, they also reveal variation in the elements defining this niche across the sites considered. In addition, despite the causal association between Buruli ulcer and M. ulcerans, we observed no significant statistical association between case reports of Buruli ulcer and presence of M. ulcerans in nearby waterbodies.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Mycobacterium ulcerans is the causative agent of Buruli ulcer (BU). In West Africa there is an association between BU and residence in low-lying rural villages where aquatic sources are plentiful. Infection occurs through unknown environmental exposure; human-to-human infection is rare. Molecular evidence for M. ulcerans in environmental samples is well documented, but the association of M. ulcerans in the environment with Buruli ulcer has not been studied in West Africa in an area with accurate case data. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDING: Environmental samples were collected from twenty-five villages in three communes of Benin. Sites sampled included 12 BU endemic villages within the Ouheme and Couffo River drainages and 13 villages near the Mono River and along the coast or ridge where BU has never been identified. Triplicate water filtrand samples from major water sources and samples from three dominant aquatic plant species were collected. Detection of M. ulcerans was based on quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Results show a significant association between M. ulcerans in environmental samples and Buruli ulcer cases in a village (p?=?0.0001). A "dose response" was observed in that increasing numbers of M. ulceran- positive environmental samples were associated with increasing prevalence of BU cases (R(2)?=?0.586). CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This study provides the first spatial data on the overlap of M. ulcerans in the environment and BU cases in Benin where case data are based on active surveillance. The study also provides the first evidence on M. ulcerans in well-defined non-endemic sites. Most environmental pathogens are more broadly distributed in the environment than in human populations. The congruence of M. ulcerans in the environment and human infection raises the possibility that humans play a role in the ecology of M. ulcerans. Methods developed could be useful for identifying new areas where humans may be at high risk for BU.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Buruli ulcer is a severe skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Real-time PCR targeting the IS2404 sequence has been used as a reliable and rapid method for the diagnosis of Buruli ulcer and detection of M. ulcerans in the environment. The genome of M. ulcerans contains hundreds of IS2404 copies, which have variability in certain sequences. Therefore, the design of new primers specific to conserved IS2404 regions may potentially improve the sensitivity of M. ulcerans detection and, consequently, the diagnosis of Buruli ulcer, thus ensuring timely treatment of the disease. RESULTS:In silico analysis indicates that DNA sequences of the IS2404 elements are highly variable within a single strain. As the binding sites of conventional IS2404-specific primers used for M. ulcerans detection contain polymorphic sequences, we designed new primers, which enabled the detection of M. ulcerans by real-time PCR with higher sensitivity and similar specificity with respect to that of conventional primers. However, the increase in sensitivity with the new primers depended on the M. ulcerans strain. CONCLUSIONS:The results suggest that real-time PCR based on the new primers could improve Buruli ulcer diagnosis and M. ulcerans detection in environmental samples.
Project description:Buruli ulcer is a chronic painless skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. The local nerve damage induced by M. ulcerans invasion is similar to the nerve damage evoked by the injection of mycolactone in a Buruli ulcer mouse model. In order to elucidate the mechanism of this nerve damage, we tested and compared the cytotoxic effect of synthetic mycolactone A/B on cultured Schwann cells, fibroblasts and macrophages. Mycolactone induced much higher cell death and apoptosis in Schwann cell line SW10 than in fibroblast line L929. These results suggest that mycolactone is a key substance in the production of nerve damage of Buruli ulcer.
Project description:While cultivation of pathogens represents a foundational diagnostic approach in the study of infectious diseases, its value for the confirmation of clinical diagnosis of Buruli ulcer is limited by the fact that colonies of Mycobacterium ulcerans appear only after about eight weeks of incubation at 30°C. However, for molecular epidemiological and drug sensitivity studies, primary isolation of M. ulcerans remains an essential tool. Since for most of the remote Buruli ulcer endemic regions of Africa cultivation laboratories are not easily accessible, samples from lesions often have to be stored for extended periods of time prior to processing. The objective of the current study therefore was to determine which transport medium, decontamination method or other factors decrease the contamination rate and increase the chance of primary isolation of M. ulcerans bacilli after long turnover time.Swab and fine needle aspirate (FNA) samples for the primary cultivation were collected from clinically confirmed Buruli ulcer patients in the Mapé Basin of Cameroon. The samples were either stored in the semi-solid transport media 7H9 or Amies or dry for extended period of time prior to processing. In the laboratory, four decontamination methods and two inoculation media were evaluated and statistical methods applied to identify factors that decrease culture contamination and factors that increase the probability of M. ulcerans recovery.The analysis showed: i) that the use of moist transport media significantly increased the recovery rate of M. ulcerans compared to samples kept dry; ii) that the choice of the decontamination method had no significant effect on the chance of M. ulcerans isolation; and iii) that Löwenstein-Jensen supplemented with antibiotics as inoculation medium yielded the best results. We further found that, ten extra days between sampling and inoculation lead to a relative decrease in the isolation rate of M. ulcerans by nearly 20%. Finally, collection and processing of multiple samples per patient was found to significantly increase the M. ulcerans isolation rate.Based on our analysis we suggest a procedure suitable for the primary isolation of M. ulcerans strains from patients following long delay between sample collection and processing to establish a M. ulcerans strain collection for research purposes.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Buruli ulcer is a severe human skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. This disease is primarily diagnosed in West Africa with increasing incidence. Antimycobacterial drug therapy is relatively effective during the preulcerative stage of the disease, but surgical excision of lesions with skin grafting is often the ultimate treatment. The mode of transmission of this Mycobacterium species remains a matter of debate, and relevant interventions to prevent this disease lack (i) the proper understanding of the M. ulcerans life history traits in its natural aquatic ecosystem and (ii) immune signatures that could be correlates of protection. We previously set up a laboratory ecosystem with predatory aquatic insects of the family Naucoridae and laboratory mice and showed that (i) M. ulcerans-carrying aquatic insects can transmit the mycobacterium through bites and (ii) that their salivary glands are the only tissues hosting replicative M. ulcerans. Further investigation in natural settings revealed that 5%-10% of these aquatic insects captured in endemic areas have M. ulcerans-loaded salivary glands. In search of novel epidemiological features we noticed that individuals working close to aquatic environments inhabited by insect predators were less prone to developing Buruli ulcers than their relatives. Thus we set out to investigate whether those individuals might display any immune signatures of exposure to M. ulcerans-free insect predator bites, and whether those could correlate with protection. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We took a two-pronged approach in this study, first investigating whether the insect bites are protective in a mouse model, and subsequently looking for possibly protective immune signatures in humans. We found that, in contrast to control BALB/c mice, BALB/c mice exposed to Naucoris aquatic insect bites or sensitized to Naucoris salivary gland homogenates (SGHs) displayed no lesion at the site of inoculation of M. ulcerans coated with Naucoris SGH components. Then using human serum samples collected in a Buruli ulcer-endemic area (in the Republic of Benin, West Africa), we assayed sera collected from either ulcer-free individuals or patients with Buruli ulcers for the titre of IgGs that bind to insect predator SGH, focusing on those molecules otherwise shown to be retained by M. ulcerans colonies. IgG titres were lower in the Buruli ulcer patient group than in the ulcer-free group. CONCLUSIONS: These data will help structure future investigations in Buruli ulcer-endemic areas, providing a rationale for research into human immune signatures of exposure to predatory aquatic insects, with special attention to those insect saliva molecules that bind to M. ulcerans.
Project description:Mycobacterium ulcerans causes Buruli ulcer, the third most prevalent mycobacterial infection of immunocompetent humans after tuberculosis and leprosy. Recent work has shown that the production by M. ulcerans of mycolactone, a novel polyketide, may partly explain the pathogenesis of Buruli ulcer. To search for the genetic basis of virulence in M. ulcerans, we took advantage of the close genetic relationship between M. ulcerans and Mycobacterium marinum by performing genomic suppressive subtractive hybridization of M. ulcerans with M. marinum. We identified several DNA fragments specific to M. ulcerans, in particular, a type I polyketide synthase locus with a highly repetitive modular arrangement. We postulate that this locus is responsible for the synthesis of mycolactone in M. ulcerans.
Project description:Since 2000, cases of the neglected tropical disease Buruli ulcer, caused by infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans, have increased 100-fold around Melbourne (population 4.4 million), the capital of Victoria, in temperate southeastern Australia. The reasons for this increase are unclear. Here, we used whole-genome sequence comparisons of 178 M. ulcerans isolates obtained primarily from human clinical specimens, spanning 70 years, to model the population dynamics of this pathogen from this region. Using phylogeographic and advanced Bayesian phylogenetic approaches, we found that there has been a migration of the pathogen from the east end of the state, beginning in the 1980s, 300 km west to the major human population center around Melbourne. This move was then followed by a significant increase in M. ulcerans population size. These analyses inform our thinking around Buruli ulcer transmission and control, indicating that M. ulcerans is introduced to a new environment and then expands, rather than it being from the awakening of a quiescent pathogen reservoir.IMPORTANCE Buruli ulcer is a destructive skin and soft tissue infection caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans and is characterized by progressive skin ulceration, which can lead to permanent disfigurement and long-term disability. Despite the majority of disease burden occurring in regions of West and central Africa, Buruli ulcer is also becoming increasingly common in southeastern Australia. Major impediments to controlling disease spread are incomplete understandings of the environmental reservoirs and modes of transmission of M. ulcerans The significance of our research is that we used genomics to assess the population structure of this pathogen at the Australian continental scale. We have then reconstructed a historical bacterial spread and modeled demographic dynamics to reveal bacterial population expansion across southeastern Australia. These findings provide explanations for the observed epidemiological trends with Buruli ulcer and suggest possible management to control disease spread.
Project description:Buruli ulcer is a neglected tropical disease of skin and subcutaneous tissue caused by infection with the pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans Many critical issues for disease control, such as understanding the mode of transmission and identifying source reservoirs of M. ulcerans, are still largely unknown. Here, we used genomics to reconstruct in detail the evolutionary trajectory and dynamics of M. ulcerans populations at a central African scale and at smaller geographical village scales. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data were analyzed from 179 M. ulcerans strains isolated from all Buruli ulcer foci in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Republic of Congo, and Angola that have ever yielded positive M. ulcerans cultures. We used both temporal associations and the study of the mycobacterial demographic history to estimate the contribution of humans as a reservoir in Buruli ulcer transmission. Our phylogeographic analysis revealed one almost exclusively predominant sublineage of M. ulcerans that arose in Central Africa and proliferated in its different regions of endemicity during the Age of Discovery. We observed how the best sampled endemic hot spot, the Songololo territory, became an area of endemicity while the region was being colonized by Belgium (1880s). We furthermore identified temporal parallels between the observed past population fluxes of M. ulcerans from the Songololo territory and the timing of health policy changes toward control of the Buruli ulcer epidemic in that region. These findings suggest that an intervention based on detecting and treating human cases in an area of endemicity might be sufficient to break disease transmission chains, irrespective of other reservoirs of the bacterium.IMPORTANCE Buruli ulcer is a destructive skin and soft tissue infection caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans The disease is characterized by progressive skin ulceration, which can lead to permanent disfigurement and long-term disability. Currently, the major hurdles facing disease control are incomplete understandings of both the mode of transmission and environmental reservoirs of M. ulcerans As decades of spasmodic environmental sampling surveys have not brought us much closer to overcoming these hurdles, the Buruli ulcer research community has recently switched to using comparative genomics. The significance of our research is in how we used both temporal associations and the study of the mycobacterial demographic history to estimate the contribution of humans as a reservoir in Buruli ulcer transmission. Our approach shows that it might be possible to use bacterial population genomics to assess the impact of health interventions, providing valuable feedback for managers of disease control programs in areas where health surveillance infrastructure is poor.