Population analysis of bacterial pathogens on distinct temporal and spatial scales
McAdam, Paul R
MetadataShow full item record
Bacteria have been the causative agents of major infectious disease pandemics throughout human history. Over the past 4 decades, a combination of changing medical practices, industrialization, and globalisation have led to a number of emergences and re-emergences of bacterial pathogens. The design of rational control programs and bespoke therapies will require an enhanced understanding of the dynamics underpinning the emergence and transmission of pathogenic clones. The recent development of new technologies for sequencing bacterial genomes rapidly and economically has led to a greatly enhanced understanding of the diversity of bacterial populations. This thesis describes the application of whole genome sequencing of 2 bacterial pathogens, Staphylococcus aureus and Legionella pneumophila, in order to understand the dynamics of bacterial infections on different temporal and spatial scales. The first study involves the examination of S. aureus evolution during a chronic infection of a single patient over a period of 26 months revealing differences in antibiotic resistance profiles and virulence factor expression over time. The genetic variation identified correlated with differences in growth rate, haemolytic activity, and antibiotic sensitivity, implying a profound effect on the ecology of S. aureus. Importantly, polymorphisms were identified in global regulators of virulence, with a high frequency of polymorphisms within the SigB locus identified, suggesting this region may be under selection in this patient. The identification of genes under diversifying selection during long-term infection may inform the design of novel therapeutics for the control of refractory chronic infections. Secondly, the emergence and transmission of 3 pandemic lineages derived from S. aureus clonal complex 30 (CC30) were investigated. Independent origins for each pandemic lineage were identified, with striking molecular correlates of hospital- or community-associated pandemics represented by mobile genetic elements, such as bacteriophage and Staphylococcal pathogenicity islands, and non-synonymous mutations affecting antibiotic resistance and virulence. Hospitals in large cities were identified as hubs for the transmission of MRSA to regional health care centres. In addition, comparison of whole genome sequences revealed that at least 3 independent acquisitions of TSST-1 have occurred in CC30, but a single distinct clade of diverse community-associated CC30 strains was responsible for the TSS epidemic of the late 1970s, and for subsequent cases of TSS in the UK and USA. Finally, whole genome sequencing was used as a tool for investigating a recent outbreak of legionellosis in Edinburgh. An unexpectedly high level of genomic diversity was identified among the outbreak strains, with respect to core genome polymorphisms, and accessory genome content. The data indicate that affected individuals may be infected with heterogeneous strains. The findings highlight the complexities in identifying environmental sources and suggest possible differences in pathogenic potential among isolates from a single outbreak. Taken together, the findings demonstrate applications of bacterial genome sequencing leading to enhanced understanding of bacterial pathogen evolution, emergence, and transmission, which may ultimately inform appropriate infection control measures.