Tox-positive Corynebacterium ulcerans in hedgehogs, Germany.
ABSTRACT: Toxigenic Corynebacterium ulcerans may cause both respiratory and cutaneous diphtheria in humans. As a zoonotic emerging pathogen it has been isolated from a wide variety of animals living in captivity, such as livestock, pet, zoo and research animals and additionally in a large number of different wild animals. Here we report the isolation of tox-positive C. ulcerans in four hedgehogs with cutaneous diphtheria and pneumonia, respectively.
Project description:Corynebacterium ulcerans may cause diphtheria in humans and caseous lymphadenitis in animals. We isolated nontoxigenic tox-bearing C. ulcerans from 13 game animals in Germany. Our results indicate a role for game animals as reservoirs for zoonotic C. ulcerans.
Project description: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: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:BACKGROUND: Corynebacterium ulcerans can cause a diphtheria-like illness, especially when the bacterium is lysogenized with a tox gene-carrying bacteriophage that produces diphtheria toxin. Acquisition of toxigenicity upon phage lysogenization is a common feature of C. ulcerans and C. diphtheriae. However, because of a lack of C. ulcerans genome information, a detailed comparison of prophages has not been possible between these two clinically important and closely related bacterial species. RESULTS: We determined the whole genome sequence of the toxigenic C. ulcerans 0102 isolated in Japan. The genomic sequence showed a striking similarity with that of Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis and, to a lesser extent, with that of C. diphtheriae. The 0102 genome contained three distinct prophages. One of these, ΦCULC0102-I, was a tox-positive prophage containing genes in the same structural order as for tox-positive C. diphtheriae prophages. However, the primary structures of the individual genes involved in the phage machinery showed little homology between the two counterparts. CONCLUSION: Taken together, these results suggest that the tox-positive prophage in this strain of C. ulcerans has a distinct origin from that of C. diphtheriae NCTC 13129.
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: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: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: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: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.