Global VGIIa isolates are of comparable virulence to the major fatal Cryptococcus gattii Vancouver Island outbreak genotype.

Molecular Mycology Research Laboratory, Centre for Infectious Disease and Microbiology, Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead Hospital, Sydney Medical School - Westmead, The University of Sydney, Westmead, NSW, Australia.
Clinical Microbiology and Infection (Impact Factor: 4.58). 03/2010; 17(2):251-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2010.03222.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The ongoing cryptococcosis outbreak on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, is caused by two VGII sub-genotypes of the primary pathogen, Cryptococcus gattii: VGIIa isolates predominate, whereas VGIIb isolates are rare. Although higher virulence of the VGIIa genotype has been proposed, an unresolved key question is whether VGIIa isolates from other regions are also more virulent than VGIIb isolates. We report the relationship between genotype and virulence for a global collection of C. gattii VGIIa and VGIIb isolates (from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Thailand and the USA). In vitro and in vivo virulence studies were conducted. At 37°C, growth [at 18 h: 0.2 optical density (OD) difference, p 0.026; at 36 h: 0.6 OD difference, p 0.036) and mean melanin production (OD = 0.25 vs. OD = 0.15, p 0.059] of VGIIa isolates was greater than that of VGIIb isolates. The inhibitory effect of high temperature on melanin production of VGIIa isolates was less than that of VGIIb isolates (OD = 0.36 vs. OD = 0.69; p 0.001). Capsule production at 37°C of VGIIa isolates was less than that of VGIIb isolates. All VGIIa isolates were fertile, whereas only 17% of VGIIb isolates were fertile (p <0.001). In vivo virulence studies using the BALB/c mice nasal inhalation model revealed that VGIIa isolates were more virulent than VGIIb isolates (p <0.001) independent of their clinical (p 0.003) or environmental origin (p <0.001). This study established a clear association between genotype and virulence of the primary fungal pathogen, C. gattii.

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    ABSTRACT: Cryptococcosis is mainly caused by Cryptococcus neoformans. However, the number of cases due to C. gattii is increasing, affecting mainly immunocompetent hosts. C. gattii is divided into four major molecular types, VGI to VGIV, which differ in their host range, epidemiology, antifungal susceptibility and geographic distribution. Besides studies on the Vancouver Island outbreak strains, which showed that the subtype VGIIa is highly virulent compared to the subtype VGIIb, little is known about the virulence of the other major molecular types. To elucidate the virulence potential of the major molecular types of C. gattii, Galleria mellonella larvae were inoculated with ten globally selected strains per molecular type. Survival rates were recorded and known virulence factors were studied. One VGII, one VGIII and one VGIV strain were more virulent (p <0.05) than the highly virulent Vancouver Island outbreak strain VGIIa (CDCR265), 11 (four VGI, two VGII, four VGIII and one VGIV) had similar virulence (p >0.05), 21 (five VGI, five VGII, four VGIII and seven VGIV) were less virulent (p <0.05) while one strain of each molecular type were avirulent. Cell and capsule size of all strains increased markedly during larvae infection (p <0.001). No differences in growth rate at 37°C were observed. Melanin synthesis was directly related with the level of virulence: more virulent strains produced more melanin than less virulent strains (p <0.05). The results indicate that all C. gattii major molecular types exhibit a range of virulence, with some strains having the potential to be more virulent. The study highlights the necessity to further investigate the genetic background of more and less virulent strains in order to recognize critical features, other than the known virulence factors (capsule, melanin and growth at mammalian body temperature), that maybe crucial for the development and progression of cryptococcosis.
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    ABSTRACT: The emergence of distinct populations of Cryptococcus gattii in the temperate North American Pacific Northwest (PNW) was surprising as it was previously thought to be confined to tropical and semi-tropical regions. Beyond a new habitat niche, the dominant emergent population displayed increased virulence and caused primary pulmonary disease, as opposed to the predominantly neurologic disease seen previously, elsewhere. Whole genome sequencing was performed on 118 C. gattii isolates, including the PNW subtypes and the global diversity of molecular type VGII, to better ascertain the natural source and genomic adaptations leading to the emergence of infection in the PNW. Overall, the VGII population was highly diverse, demonstrating large numbers of mutational and recombinational events; however, the three dominant subtypes from the PNW were of low diversity and were completely clonal. Although strains of VGII were found on at least five continents, all genetic sub-populations were represented or were most closely related to strains from South America. The phylogenetic data are consistent with multiple dispersal events from South America to North America and elsewhere. Numerous gene content differences were identified between the emergent clones and other VGII lineages, including genes potentially related to habitat adaptation, virulence and pathology. Evidence was also found for gene possible introgression from C. neoformans var. grubii that is rarely seen in global C. gattii, but which was present in all PNW populations. These findings provide greater understanding of C. gattii evolution in North America and support extensive evolution in, and dispersal from, South America.
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