Water as Source of Francisella tularensis Infection in Humans, Turkey.
ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis DNA extractions and isolates from the environment and humans were genetically characterized to elucidate environmental sources that cause human tularemia in Turkey. Extensive genetic diversity consistent with genotypes from human outbreaks was identified in environmental samples and confirmed water as a source of human tularemia in Turkey.
Project description:Tularemia is an emerging zoonosis caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Francisella tularensis, which is able to infect a range of animal species and humans. Human infections occur through contact with animals, ingestion of food, insect bites or exposure to aerosols or water, and may lead to serious disease. F. tularensis may persist in aquatic reservoirs. In the Netherland, no human tularemia cases were notified for over 60 years until in 2011 an endemic patient was diagnosed, followed by 17 cases in the 6 years since. The re-emergence of tularemia could be caused by changes in reservoirs or transmission routes. We performed environmental surveillance of F. tularensis in surface waters in the Netherlands by using two approaches. Firstly, 339 samples were obtained from routine monitoring -not related to tularemia- at 127 locations that were visited between 1 and 8 times in 2015 and 2016. Secondly, sampling efforts were performed after reported tularemia cases (n = 8) among hares or humans in the period 2013-2017. F. tularensis DNA was detected at 17% of randomly selected surface water locations from different parts of the country. At most of these positive locations, DNA was not detected at each time point and levels were very low, but at two locations contamination was clearly higher. From 7 out of the 8 investigated tularemia cases, F. tularensis DNA was detected in at least one surface water sample collected after the case. By using a protocol tailored for amplification of low amounts of environmental DNA, 10 gene targets were sequenced. Presence of F. tularensis subspecies holarctica was confirmed in 4 samples, and in 2 of these, clades B.12 and B.6 were identified. This study shows that for tularemia, information regarding the spatial and temporal distribution of its causative agent could be derived from environmental surveillance of surface waters. Tracking a particular strain in the environment as source of infection is feasible and could be substantiated by genotyping, which was achieved in water samples with only low levels of F. tularemia present. These techniques allow the establishment of a link between tularemia cases and environmental samples without the need for cultivation.
Project description:Francisella tularensis causes the disease tularemia. Human pulmonary exposure to the most virulent form, F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (Ftt), leads to high morbidity and mortality, resulting in this bacterium being classified as a potential biothreat agent. However, a closely-related species, F. novicida, is avirulent in healthy humans. No tularemia vaccine is currently approved for human use. We demonstrate that a single dose vaccine of a live attenuated F. novicida strain (Fn iglD) protects against subsequent pulmonary challenge with Ftt using two different animal models, Fischer 344 rats and cynomolgus macaques (NHP). The Fn iglD vaccine showed protective efficacy in rats, as did a Ftt iglD vaccine, suggesting no disadvantage to utilizing the low human virulent Francisella species to induce protective immunity. Comparison of specific antibody profiles in vaccinated rat and NHP sera by proteome array identified a core set of immunodominant antigens in vaccinated animals. This is the first report of a defined live attenuated vaccine that demonstrates efficacy against pulmonary tularemia in a NHP, and indicates that the low human virulence F. novicida functions as an effective tularemia vaccine platform.
Project description:Tularemia is a potentially fatal disease that is caused by the highly infectious and zoonotic pathogen Francisella tularensis. Despite the monomorphic nature of sequenced F. tularensis genomes, there is a significant degree of plasticity in the organization of genetic elements. The observed variability in these genomes is due primarily to the transposition of direct repeats and insertion sequence (IS) elements. Since current methods used to genotype F. tularensis are time-consuming and require extensive laboratory resources, IS elements were investigated as a means to subtype this organism. The unique spatial location of specific IS elements provided the basis for the development of a differential IS amplification (DISA) assay to detect and distinguish the more virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (subtypes A.I and A.II) and subsp. holarctica (type B) strains from F. tularensis subsp. novicida and other near neighbors, including Francisella philomiragia and Francisella-like endosymbionts found in ticks. Amplicon sizes and sequences derived from DISA showed heterogeneity within members of the subtype A.I and A.II isolates but not the type B strains. These differences were due to a 312-bp fragment derived from the IS element ISFtu1. Analysis of wild-type F. tularensis isolates by DISA correlated with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotyping utilizing two different restriction endonucleases and provided rapid results with minimal sample processing. The applicability of this molecular typing assay for environmental studies was demonstrated by the accurate identification and differentiation of tick-borne F. tularensis. The described approach to IS targeting and amplification provides new capability for epidemiological investigations and characterizations of tularemia source outbreaks.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes a fatal human disease known as tularemia. The Centers for Disease Control have classified F. tularensis as Category A Tier-1 Select Agent. The virulence mechanisms of Francisella are not entirely understood. Francisella possesses very few transcription regulators, and most of these regulate the expression of genes involved in intracellular survival and virulence. The F. tularensis genome sequence analysis reveals an AraC (FTL_0689) transcriptional regulator homologous to the AraC/XylS family of transcriptional regulators. In Gram-negative bacteria, AraC activates genes required for L-arabinose utilization and catabolism. The role of the FTL_0689 regulator in F. tularensis is not known. In this study, we characterized the role of FTL_0689 in gene regulation of F. tularensis and investigated its contribution to intracellular survival and virulence. The results demonstrate that FTL_0689 in Francisella is not required for L-arabinose utilization. Instead, FTL_0689 specifically regulates the expression of the oxidative and global stress response, virulence, metabolism, and other key pathways genes required by Francisella when exposed to oxidative stress. The FTL_0689 mutant is attenuated for intramacrophage growth, and mice infected with the FTL_0689 mutant survive better than wild-type F. tularensis LVS infected mice. Based on the deletion mutant phenotype, FTL_0689 was termed osrR (oxidative stress response regulator). Altogether, this study elucidates the role of the osrR transcriptional regulator in tularemia pathogenesis. Overall design: Comparison of transcript abundance in Francisella tularensis with or without the osrR gene when grown in the absence or the presence of oxidative stress induced by a superoxide generating compound, menadione.
Project description:The presence of Francisella-like endosymbionts in tick species known to transmit tularemia poses a potential diagnostic problem for laboratories that screen tick samples by PCR for Francisella tularensis. Tick samples initially considered positive for F. tularensis based on standard 16S rRNA gene PCR were found to be positive only for Francisella-like endosymbionts using a multitarget F. tularensis TaqMan assay (ISFtu2, tul4, and iglC) and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Specificity of PCR-based diagnostics for F. tularensis should be carefully evaluated with appropriate specimen types prior to diagnostic use.
Project description:We determined whether Francisella spp. are present in water, sediment, and soil from an active tularemia natural focus on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, during a multiyear outbreak of pneumonic tularemia. Environmental samples were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting Francisella species 16S rRNA gene and succinate dehydrogenase A (sdhA) sequences; evidence of the agent of tularemia was sought by amplification of Francisella tularensis-specific sequences for the insertion element ISFTu2, 17-kDa protein gene tul4, and the 43-kDa outer membrane protein gene fopA. Evidence of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis, the causative agent of the human infections in this outbreak, was not detected from environmental samples despite its active transmission among ticks and animals in the sampling site. Francisella philomiragia was frequently detected from a brackish-water pond using Francisella species PCR targets, and subsequently F. philomiragia was isolated from an individual brackish-water sample. Distinct Francisella sp. sequences that are closely related to F. tularensis and Francisella novicida were detected from samples collected from the brackish-water pond. We conclude that diverse Francisella spp. are present in the environment where human cases of pneumonic tularemia occur.
Project description:Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica is a select agent causing life-threatening tularemia. It has been isolated from humans and animals, mainly lagomorphs and rodents, rarely other wild carnivore species. Increasing numbers of human tularemia cases have been reported during the last 5 years in Switzerland. Here we report the first isolation of Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica from a domestic cat in Europe and compare its genome sequence with other Swiss isolates. The cat isolate shows a close phylogenetic relationship with a contemporary hare isolate from close geographic proximity, indicating a possible epidemiological link.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is the etiological agent of the potentially fatal disease tularemia. Here, we report the draft genome sequence of a virulent human isolate from Tibet, China in 1962, F. tularensis strain 410108, an intermediate-genotype strain of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica between biovar japonica and non-japonica strains in the world.
Project description:In Sweden, human cases of tularemia caused by Francisella tularensis holarctica are assumed to be transmitted by mosquitoes, but how mosquito vectors acquire and transmit the bacterium is not clear. To determine how transmission of this bacterium occurs, mosquito larvae were collected in an area where tularemia is endemic, brought to the laboratory, and reared to adults in their original pond water. Screening of adult mosquitoes by real-time PCR demonstrated F. tularensis lpnA sequences in 14 of the 48 mosquito pools tested; lpnA sequences were demonstrated in 6 of 9 identified mosquito species. Further analysis confirmed the presence of F. tularensis holarctica-specific 30-bp deletion region sequences (FtM19inDel) in water from breeding containers and in 3 mosquito species (Aedes sticticus, Ae. vexans, and Ae. punctor) known to take blood from humans. Our results suggest that the mosquitoes that transmit F. tularensis holarctica during tularemia outbreaks acquire the bacterium already as larvae.
Project description:We report a case of ulceroglandular tularemia that developed in a woman after she was bitten by a ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) in a forest in Tasmania, Australia. Francisella tularensis subspecies holarctica was identified. This case indicates the emergence of F. tularensis type B in the Southern Hemisphere.