Outbreak with clonally related isolates of Corynebacterium ulcerans in a group of water rats.
ABSTRACT: The zoonotic bacterium Corynebacterium ulcerans may be pathogenic both in humans and animals: toxigenic strains can cause diphtheria or diphtheria-like disease in humans via diphtheria toxin, while strains producing the dermonecrotic exotoxin phospholipase D may lead to caseous lymphadenitis primarily in wild animals. Diphtheria toxin-positive Corynebacterium ulcerans strains have been isolated mainly from cattle, dogs and cats.Here, we report a series of ten isolations of Corynebacterium ulcerans from a group of water rats (Hydromys chrysogaster) with ulcerative skin lesions, which were kept in a zoo. The isolates were clearly assigned to species level by biochemical identification systems, Fourier-transform infrared-spectroscopy, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry and partial rpoB sequencing, respectively. All ten isolates turned out to represent the same sequence type, strongly indicating a cluster of infections by clonally-related isolates as could be demonstrated for the first time for this species using multilocus sequence typing. Unequivocal demonstration of high relatedness of the isolates could also be demonstrated by Fourier-transform infrared-spectroscopy. All isolates were lacking the diphtheria toxin encoding tox-gene, but were phospholipase D-positive.Our results indicate that water rats represent a suitable new host species that is prone to infection and must be regarded as a reservoir for potentially zoonotic Corynebacterium ulcerans. Furthermore, the applied methods demonstrated persistent infection as well as a very close relationship between all ten isolates.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Diphtheria toxin (DT) is produced by toxigenic strains of the human pathogen Corynebacterium diphtheriae as well as zoonotic C. ulcerans and C. pseudotuberculosis. Toxigenic strains may cause severe respiratory diphtheria, myocarditis, neurological damage or cutaneous diphtheria. The DT encoding tox gene is located in a mobile genomic region and tox variability between C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans has been postulated based on sequences of a few isolates. In contrast, species-specific sequence analysis of the diphtheria toxin repressor gene (dtxR), occurring both in toxigenic and non-toxigenic Corynebacterium species, has not been done yet. We used whole genome sequencing data from 91 toxigenic and 46 non-toxigenic isolates of different pathogenic Corynebacterium species of animal or human origin to elucidate differences in extracted DT, DtxR and tox-surrounding genetic elements by a phylogenetic analysis in a large sample set. RESULTS:Sequences of both DT and DtxR, extracted from whole genome sequencing data, could be classified in four distinct, nearly species-specific clades, corresponding to C. diphtheriae, C. pseudotuberculosis, C. ulcerans and atypical C. ulcerans from a non-toxigenic toxin gene-bearing wildlife cluster. Average amino acid similarities were above 99% for DT and DtxR within the four groups, but lower between them. For DT, subgroups below species level could be identified, correlating with different tox-comprising mobile genetic elements. In most C. diphtheriae, tox genes were located within known prophages. In contrast, in C. ulcerans diverse tox-including mobile elements could be identified: either prophages differing from C. diphtheriae prophages or an alternative pathogenicity island (PAI) described previously. One isolate showed a different, shorter tox-comprising putative PAI. Beyond the tox-overlapping elements, most isolates harbored a variety of additional prophages. CONCLUSION:Our NGS data from 137 isolates indicate the existence of different genetic backgrounds of DT-mediated pathogenicity in different Corynebacterium species and evolution of once acquired pathogenicity features with the strains. Different groups of pathogenicity-related elements within C. ulcerans imply that tox transmission pathways between isolates may differ in the zoonotic species and contribute to their emerging pathogenic potential.
Project description:Corynebacterium ulcerans, an emerging pathogen related to C. diphtheriae and C. pseudotuberculosis, is able to cause disease in both human and animal hosts. C. ulcerans may harbor acquired virulence factors such as dermonecrotic exotoxin phospholipase D (PLD) and the prophage-encoded diphtheria toxin (DT). Infections typically occur in persons reporting close contact with animals. In pets, C. ulcerans has been isolated from both asymptomatic carriers and clinically affected dogs and cats. We describe the isolation and characterization of C. ulcerans strains from 2 pet dogs with ulcerative lesions in Italy. The 2 isolates tested negative for both DT genes, but were PLD-producers and belonged to sequence types (STs) 325 and 339. These 2 cases highlight that C. ulcerans cutaneous infections might be underestimated in pets, given that many veterinary laboratories do not routinely consider and/or identify Corynebacterium species from cutaneous samples. Early detection and molecular typing of C. ulcerans is essential in order to implement effective treatment and to prevent diffusion and possible zoonotic transmission of certain STs.
Project description:Human-to-human-transmitted Corynebacterium diphtheriae was historically the main pathogen causing diphtheria and has therefore been studied extensively in the past. More recently, diphtheria caused by toxigenic Corynebacterium ulcerans is an emerging disease in several industrial countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Germany. However, toxigenic C. ulcerans has so far been almost neglected in the development of epidemiologic tools. One of the most important tools in modern epidemiology to understand transmission pathways is sequence typing of pathogens. Here, we provide a protocol for multilocus sequence typing (MLST) to type C. ulcerans strains rapidly and relatively cost-effectively. Applying MLST to C. ulcerans for the first time, we show that related sequence types (STs) might be associated with the presence of the diphtheria toxin gene, which encodes diphtheria toxin (DT), the most important diphtheria-causing virulence factor. Interestingly, we found only two very closely related STs in the isolates derived from six dogs. Additionally, our data show that all STs derived from animals which were at least twice present in our analysis were found in humans as well. This finding is congruent with zoonotic transmission of C. ulcerans.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Toxigenic Corynebacterium ulcerans can cause a diphtheria-like illness in humans and have been found in domestic animals, which were suspected to serve as reservoirs for a zoonotic transmission. Additionally, toxigenic C. ulcerans were reported to take over the leading role in causing diphtheria in the last years in many industrialized countries. METHODS: To gain deeper insights into the tox gene locus and to understand the transmission pathway in detail, we analyzed nine isolates derived from human patients and their domestic animals applying next generation sequencing and comparative genomics. RESULTS: We provide molecular evidence for zoonotic transmission of C. ulcerans in four cases and demonstrate the superior resolution of next generation sequencing compared to multi-locus sequence typing for epidemiologic research. Additionally, we provide evidence that the virulence of C. ulcerans can change rapidly by acquisition of novel virulence genes. This mechanism is exemplified by an isolate which acquired a prophage not present in the corresponding isolate from the domestic animal. This prophage contains a putative novel virulence factor, which shares high identity with the RhuM virulence factor from Salmonella enterica but which is unknown in Corynebacteria so far. Furthermore, we identified a putative pathogenicity island for C. ulcerans bearing a diphtheria toxin gene. CONCLUSION: The novel putative diphtheria toxin pathogenicity island could provide a new and alternative pathway for Corynebacteria to acquire a functional diphtheria toxin-encoding gene by horizontal gene transfer, distinct from the previously well characterized phage infection model. The novel transmission pathway might explain the unexpectedly high number of toxigenic C. ulcerans.
Project description:Corynebacteriumulcerans is an important zoonotic pathogen which is causing diphtheria-like disease in humans globally. In this study, the genomes of three recently isolated C. ulcerans strains, 4940, 2590 and BR-AD 2649, respectively from an asymptomatic carrier, a patient with pharyngitis and a canine host, were sequenced to investigate their virulence potential. A comparative analysis was performed including the published genome sequences of 16 other C. ulcerans isolates. C. ulcerans strains belong to two lineages; 13 strains are grouped together in lineage 1, and six strains comprise lineage 2. Consistent with the zoonotic nature of C. ulcerans infections, isolates from both the human and canine hosts clustered in both the lineages. Most of the strains possessed spaDEF and spaBC gene clusters along with the virulence genes cpp, pld, cwlH, nanH, rpfI, tspA and vsp1. The gene encoding Shiga-like toxin was only present in one strain, and 11 strains carried the tox gene encoding the diphtheria-like toxin. However, none of strains 4940, 2590 and BR-AD 2649 carried any toxin genes. These strains varied in the number of prophages in their genomes, which suggests that they play an important role in introducing diversity in C. ulcerans. The pan-genomic analyses revealed a variation in the number of membrane-associated and secreted proteins that may contribute to the variation in pathogenicity among different strains.
Project description:BackgroundDiphtheria is a potentially fatal disease caused by toxigenic strains of Corynebacterium diphtheriae, C. ulcerans or C. pseudotuberculosis.AimOur objective was to review the epidemiology of diphtheria in the United Kingdom (UK) and the impact of recent changes in public health management and surveillance.MethodsPutative human toxigenic diphtheria isolates in the UK are sent for species confirmation and toxigenicity testing to the National Reference Laboratory. Clinical, epidemiological and microbiological information for toxigenic cases between 2009 and 2017 are described in this population-based prospective surveillance study.ResultsThere were 33 toxigenic cases of diphtheria aged 4 to 82 years. Causative species were C. diphtheriae (n?=?18) and C. ulcerans (n?=?15). Most C. diphtheriae cases were cutaneous (14/18) while more than half of C. ulcerans cases had respiratory presentations (8/15). Two thirds (23/33) of cases were inadequately immunised. Two cases with C. ulcerans infections died, both inadequately immunised. The major risk factor for C. diphtheriae aquisition was travel to an endemic area and for C. ulcerans, contact with a companion animal. Most confirmed C. diphtheriae or C. ulcerans isolates (441/507; 87%) submitted for toxigenicity testing were non-toxigenic, however, toxin positivity rates were higher (15/23) for C. ulcerans than C. diphtheriae (18/469). Ten non-toxigenic toxin gene-bearing (NTTB) C. diphtheriae were also detected.ConclusionDiphtheria is a rare disease in the UK. In the last decade, milder cutaneous C. diphtheriae cases have become more frequent. Incomplete vaccination status was strongly associated with the risk of hospitalisation and death.
Project description:While Corynebacterium ulcerans can mimic classical diphtheria, extrapharyngeal infections are extremely rare. Sequencing of the diphtheria toxin (DT)-encoding tox gene of two C. ulcerans isolates from extrapharyngeal infections revealed differences from C. diphtheriae DT sequences, mainly in the translocation and receptor-binding domains. C. ulcerans supernatants were much less potent than supernatant from C. diphtheriae. A C. ulcerans DT-specific PCR is described below.
Project description:The systemic symptoms of diphtheria are caused by the tox-encoded diphtheria toxin (DT) which is produced by toxigenic Corynebacterium spp. Besides the classical agent C. diphtheriae, the zoonotic pathogen C. ulcerans has increasingly been reported as an emerging pathogen for diphtheria. The reliable detection of toxigenic Corynebacterium spp. is of substantial importance for both diphtheria surveillance in the public health sector and the clinical workup of a patient with diphtherialike symptoms. Since the respective tox genes of C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans differ from each other in both DNA and amino acid sequence, both tox genes should be covered by novel real-time PCR methods. We describe the development and validation of a LightCycler PCR assay which reliably recognizes tox genes from both C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans and differentiates the respective target genes by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) hybridization probe melting curve analysis.
Project description:Diphtheria surveillance depends on the rapid and reliable recognition of the toxin gene in Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Real-time PCR is a rapid tool to confirm the presence of the diphtheria toxin gene (tox) in an isolate or specimen. We report that some toxigenic Corynebacterium ulcerans strains show atypical results in a real-time PCR for tox.
Project description:Raised lesions were present on the left nasal vestibule of a 20-month-old Japanese Brown heifer. The largest mass which caused partial nasal obstruction was removed surgically. Corynebacterium ulcerans was identified in the mass. 16S ribosomal RNA and RNA polymerase beta subunit genes were 100% and 98% identical to other C. ulcerans strains. Histologically, multiple foci of eosinophilic granuloma with Splendore-Hoeppli material were seen. Rod-shaped Gram-positive organisms were detected with metachromatic granules, producing diphtheria toxin with 5, 30 and 48 amino acid differences to another C. ulcerans strain, C. diphtheriae or C. pseudotuberculosis, respectively. The toxin is highly cytotoxic and may be responsible for the formation of abundant Splendore-Hoeppli material. The lesion was therefore judged to be an allergic reaction to bacterial antigens or diphtheria toxin.