Genome Sequencing Links Persistent Outbreak of Legionellosis in Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) to an Emerging Clone of Legionella pneumophila Sequence Type 211

Genome Sequencing Links Persistent Outbreak of Legionellosis in Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) to an Emerging Clone of Legionella pneumophila Sequence Type 211.

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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Official URL:
Journal or Publication Title: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume: 84
Number: 5
Date: 2017
Divisions: Tuberculosis
Depositing User: General Admin
Identification Number: 10.1128/AEM.02020-17
ISSN: 0099-2240
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2021 22:28

The city of Sydney, Australia, experienced a persistent outbreak of Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1) pneumonia in 2016. To elucidate the source and guide public health actions, the genomes of clinical and environmental Lp1 isolates recovered over 7 weeks were examined. A total of 48 isolates from human cases and cooling towers were sequenced and compared using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based core-genome multilocus sequencing typing (MLST) and pangenome approaches. All three methods confirmed phylogenetic relatedness between isolates associated with outbreaks in the Central Business District (CBD) in March and May and those in suburb 1. These isolates were designated the "main cluster" and consisted of isolates from two patients from the CBD March outbreak, one patient and one tower isolate from suburb 1, and isolates from two cooling towers and three patients from the CBD May outbreak. All main cluster isolates were sequence type 211 (ST211), which previously has only been reported in Canada. Significantly, pangenome analysis identified mobile genetic elements containing a unique type IV A F-type secretion system (T4ASS), which was specific to the main cluster, and cocirculating clinical strains, suggesting a potential mechanism for increased fitness and persistence of the outbreak clone. Genome sequencing enabled linking of the geographically dispersed environmental sources of infection among the spatially and temporally coinciding cases of legionellosis in a highly populated urban setting. The discovery of a unique T4ASS emphasizes the role of genome recombination in the emergence of successful Lp1 clones.IMPORTANCE A new emerging clone has been responsible for a prolonged legionellosis outbreak in Sydney, Australia. The use of whole-genome sequencing linked two outbreaks thought to be unrelated and confirmed the outliers. These findings led to the resampling and subsequent identification of the source, guiding public health actions and bringing the outbreak to a close. Significantly, the outbreak clone was identified as sequence type 211 (ST211). Our study reports this ST in the Southern Hemisphere and presents a description of ST211 genomes from both clinical and environmental isolates. A unique mobile genetic element containing a type IV secretion system was identified in Lp1 ST211 isolates linked to the main cluster and Lp1 ST42 isolates that were cocirculating at the time of the outbreak.

Keywords: Legionella pneumophila; Legionnaires' disease; bacterial genomics; molecular epidemiology; prevention and control; whole-genome sequencing.

© Crown copyright 2018.

Timms, Verlaine J.
Rockett, Rebecca
Bachmann, Nathan L.
Martinez, Elena
Wang, Qinning
Chen, Sharon C.-A.
Jeoffreys, Neisha
Howard, Peter J.
Smith, Anna
Adamson, Sheena
Gilmour, Robin
Sheppeard, Vicky
Sintchenko, Vitali
Schaffner, Donald W.
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2021 22:28

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