Alison E Mather

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (20)267.9 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) typhoid is a major global health threat affecting many countries where the disease is endemic. Here whole-genome sequence analysis of 1,832 Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (S. Typhi) identifies a single dominant MDR lineage, H58, that has emerged and spread throughout Asia and Africa over the last 30 years. Our analysis identifies numerous transmissions of H58, including multiple transfers from Asia to Africa and an ongoing, unrecognized MDR epidemic within Africa itself. Notably, our analysis indicates that H58 lineages are displacing antibiotic-sensitive isolates, transforming the global population structure of this pathogen. H58 isolates can harbor a complex MDR element residing either on transmissible IncHI1 plasmids or within multiple chromosomal integration sites. We also identify new mutations that define the H58 lineage. This phylogeographical analysis provides a framework to facilitate global management of MDR typhoid and is applicable to similar MDR lineages emerging in other bacterial species.
    Nature Genetics 05/2015; DOI:10.1038/ng.3281 · 29.65 Impact Factor
  • The Lancet 11/2014; 384(9955-9955):1720. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61790-6 · 45.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Shigellosis (previously bacillary dysentery) was the primary diarrhoeal disease of World War 1, but outbreaks still occur in military operations, and shigellosis causes hundreds of thousands of deaths per year in developing nations. We aimed to generate a high-quality reference genome of the historical Shigella flexneri isolate NCTC1 and to examine the isolate for resistance to antimicrobials. METHODS: In this genomic analysis, we sequenced the oldest extant Shigella flexneri serotype 2a isolate using single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology. Isolated from a soldier with dysentery from the British forces fighting on the Western Front in World War 1, this bacterium, NCTC1, was the first isolate accessioned into the National Collection of Type Cultures. We created a reference sequence for NCTC1, investigated the isolate for antimicrobial resistance, and undertook comparative genetics with S flexneri reference strains isolated during the 100 years since World War 1. FINDINGS: We discovered that NCTC1 belonged to a 2a lineage of S flexneri, with which it shares common characteristics and a large core genome. NCTC1 was resistant to penicillin and erythromycin, and contained a complement of chromosomal antimicrobial resistance genes similar to that of more recent isolates. Genomic islands gained in the S flexneri 2a lineage over time were predominately associated with additional antimicrobial resistances, virulence, and serotype conversion. INTERPRETATION: This S flexneri 2a lineage is a well adapted pathogen that has continued to respond to selective pressures. We have created a valuable historical benchmark for shigellae in the form of a high-quality reference sequence for a publicly available isolate. FUNDING: The Wellcome Trust.
    The Lancet 11/2014; 384(9955-9955):1691-7. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61789-X · 45.22 Impact Factor
  • J. A. Afema · A. E. Mather · W. M. Sischo
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    ABSTRACT: Analysis of long-term anti-microbial resistance (AMR) data is useful to understand source and transmission dynamics of AMR. We analysed 5124 human clinical isolates from Washington State Department of Health, 391 cattle clinical isolates from the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and 1864 non-clinical isolates from foodborne disease research on dairies in the Pacific Northwest. Isolates were assigned profiles based on phenotypic resistance to 11 anti-microbials belonging to eight classes. Salmonella Typhimurium (ST), Salmonella Newport (SN) and Salmonella Montevideo (SM) were the most common serovars in both humans and cattle. Multinomial logistic regression showed ST and SN from cattle had greater probability of resistance to multiple classes of anti-microbials than ST and SN from humans (P < 0.0001). While these findings could be consistent with the belief that cattle are a source of resistant ST and SN for people, occurrence of profiles unique to cattle and not observed in temporally related human isolates indicates these profiles are circulating in cattle only. We used various measures to assess AMR diversity, conditional on the weighting of rare versus abundant profiles. AMR profile richness was greater in the common serovars from humans, although both source data sets were dominated by relatively few profiles. The greater profile richness in human Salmonella may be due to greater diversity of sources entering the human population compared to cattle or due to continuous evolution in the human environment. Also, AMR diversity was greater in clinical compared to non-clinical cattle Salmonella, and this could be due to anti-microbial selection pressure in diseased cattle that received treatment. The use of bootstrapping techniques showed that although there were shared profiles between humans and cattle, the expected and observed number of profiles was different, suggesting Salmonella and associated resistance from humans and cattle may not be wholly derived from a common population.
    Zoonoses and Public Health 11/2014; DOI:10.1111/zph.12172 · 2.07 Impact Factor
  • Eurosurveillance: bulletin europeen sur les maladies transmissibles = European communicable disease bulletin 08/2014; 19(31). DOI:10.2807/1560-7917.ES2014.19.31.20866 · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: On 28 November 2011, as part of a local food survey, Public Health England (PHE; formerly the Health Protection Agency) Food Water and Environment (FWE) Laboratory in Preston, England, confirmed the presence of Salmonella in a ready to eat watermelon slice purchased from a major supermarket retailer. The isolate was sent to the Gastrointestinal Bacteria Reference Unit (GBRU) at Colindale, London who reported it as Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica serovar Newport on 6 December 2011. On 13 December 2011, the result was communicated through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Commission [1]. In late December 2011, Health Protection Scotland (HPS) reported four cases of S. Newport, all with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profile which had not previously been seen. Concurrently in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, reporting of S. Newport infections exceeded expected levels. Molecular analysis of isolates from the human cases from all four countries indicated a PFGE profile indistinguishable from the sliced watermelon isolate. On 13 January 2012, Germany reported through the Epidemic Intelligence Information System (EPIS) at the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) fourteen S. Newport isolates that were indistinguishable from the PFGE profile of the sliced watermelon isolate. Four cases with this profile were also reported in Ireland in January 2012. A multi-agency outbreak control team (OCT) was convened on 16 January 2012 comprising staff from PHE, Public Health Wales (PHW), HPS and the United Kingdom (UK) Food Standards Agency (FSA). There were separate communications with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) regarding the German cases and with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the National Salmonella, Shigella and Listeria Reference Laboratory (NSSLRL) regarding cases from Ireland. German and Irish public health and food safety authorities subsequently joined the OCT. The aims of investigations were to gather and collate information on exposures, to identify the potential source(s), to institute immediate control measures and to determine if there were any lessons to be learnt regarding future prevention. We describe an outbreak of S. Newport across six countries linked to the consumption of watermelon originating from Brazil.
    Eurosurveillance: bulletin europeen sur les maladies transmissibles = European communicable disease bulletin 08/2014; 19(31). · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Traditional genetic association studies are very difficult in bacteria, as the generally limited recombination leads to large linked haplotype blocks, confounding the identification of causative variants. Beta-lactam antibiotic resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae arises readily as the bacteria can quickly incorporate DNA fragments encompassing variants that make the transformed strains resistant. However, the causative mutations themselves are embedded within larger recombined blocks, and previous studies have only analysed a limited number of isolates, leading to the description of "mosaic genes" as being responsible for resistance. By comparing a large number of genomes of beta-lactam susceptible and non-susceptible strains, the high frequency of recombination should break up these haplotype blocks and allow the use of genetic association approaches to identify individual causative variants. Here, we performed a genome-wide association study to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and indels that could confer beta-lactam non-susceptibility using 3,085 Thai and 616 USA pneumococcal isolates as independent datasets for the variant discovery. The large sample sizes allowed us to narrow the source of beta-lactam non-susceptibility from long recombinant fragments down to much smaller loci comprised of discrete or linked SNPs. While some loci appear to be universal resistance determinants, contributing equally to non-susceptibility for at least two classes of beta-lactam antibiotics, some play a larger role in resistance to particular antibiotics. All of the identified loci have a highly non-uniform distribution in the populations. They are enriched not only in vaccine-targeted, but also non-vaccine-targeted lineages, which may raise clinical concerns. Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms underlying resistance will be essential for future use of genome sequencing to predict antibiotic sensitivity in clinical microbiology.
    PLoS Genetics 08/2014; 10(8):e1004547. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004547 · 8.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding which phenotypic traits are consistently correlated throughout evolution is a highly pertinent problem in modern evolutionary biology. Here, we propose a multivariate phylogenetic latent liability model for assessing the correlation between multiple types of data, while simultaneously controlling for their unknown shared evolutionary history informed through molecular sequences. The latent formulation enables us to consider in a single model combinations of continuous traits, discrete binary traits, and discrete traits with multiple ordered and unordered states. Previous approaches have entertained a single data type generally along a fixed history, precluding estimation of correlation between traits and ignoring uncertainty in the history. We implement our model in a Bayesian phylogenetic framework, and discuss inference techniques for hypothesis testing. Finally, we showcase the method through applications to columbine flower morphology, antibiotic resistance in Salmonella, and epitope evolution in influenza.
    The Annals of Applied Statistics 06/2014; 9(2). DOI:10.1214/15-AOAS821 · 1.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evasion of clinical interventions by Streptococcus pneumoniae occurs through selection of non-susceptible genomic variants. We report whole-genome sequencing of 3,085 pneumococcal carriage isolates from a 2.4-km(2) refugee camp. This sequencing provides unprecedented resolution of the process of recombination and its impact on population evolution. Genomic recombination hotspots show remarkable consistency between lineages, indicating common selective pressures acting at certain loci, particularly those associated with antibiotic resistance. Temporal changes in antibiotic consumption are reflected in changes in recombination trends, demonstrating rapid spread of resistance when selective pressure is high. The highest frequencies of receipt and donation of recombined DNA fragments were observed in non-encapsulated lineages, implying that this largely overlooked pneumococcal group, which is beyond the reach of current vaccines, may have a major role in genetic exchange and the adaptation of the species as a whole. These findings advance understanding of pneumococcal population dynamics and provide information for the design of future intervention strategies.
    Nature Genetics 02/2014; 46(3). DOI:10.1038/ng.2895 · 29.65 Impact Factor
  • Alison E Mather · Simon R Harris
    Nature Reviews Microbiology 11/2013; 11(12):822. DOI:10.1038/nrmicro3164 · 23.32 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The global epidemic of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 provides an important example, both in terms of the agent and its resistance, of a widely disseminated zoonotic pathogen. Here, with an unprecedented national collection of isolates collected contemporaneously from humans and animals and including a sample of internationally derived isolates, we have used whole-genome sequencing to dissect the phylogenetic associationsof the bacterium and its antimicrobial resistance genes through the course of an epidemic. Contrary to current tenets supporting a single homogeneous epidemic, we demonstrate that the bacterium and its resistance genes were largely maintained within animal and human populations separately and that there was limited transmission, in either direction. We also show considerable variation in the resistance profiles, in contrast to the largely stable bacterial core genome, which emphasizes the critical importance of integrated genotypic data sets in understanding the ecology of bacterial zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance.
    Science 09/2013; 341(6153). DOI:10.1126/science.1240578 · 31.48 Impact Factor
  • A E Mather · D J Mellor · S W J Reid
    Equine Veterinary Journal 07/2013; 45(4):394-5. DOI:10.1111/evj.12087 · 2.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The widespread use of antibiotics in association with high-density clinical care has driven the emergence of drugresistant bacteria that are adapted to thrive in hospitalized patients. Of particular concern are globally disseminated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clones that cause outbreaks and epidemics associated with health care. The most rapidly spreading and tenacious health-care-associated clone in Europe currently is EMRSA-15, which was first detected in the UK in the early 1990s and subsequently spread throughout Europe and beyond. Using phylogenomic methods to analyze the genome sequences for 193 S. aureus isolates, we were able to show that the current pandemic population of EMRSA-15 descends from a health-care-associatedMRSA epidemic that spread throughout England in the 1980s, which had itself previously emerged froma primarily community-associated methicillin-sensitive population. The emergence of fluoroquinolone resistance in this EMRSA-15 subclone in the English Midlands during the mid-1980s appears to have played a key role in triggering pandemic spread, and occurred shortly after the first clinical trials of this drug. Genome-based coalescence analysis estimated that the population of this subclone over the last 20 yr has grown four times faster than its progenitor. Using comparative genomic analysis we identified the molecular genetic basis of 99.8% of the antimicrobial resistance phenotypes of the isolates, highlighting the potential of pathogen genome sequencing as a diagnostic tool.We document the genetic changes associated with adaptation to the hospital environment and with increasing drug resistance over time, and how MRSA evolution likely has been influenced by country-specific drug use regimens.
    Genome Research 01/2013; 23(4). DOI:10.1101/gr.147710.112 · 13.85 Impact Factor
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    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 05/2012; 279(1740):2924-2925. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.0614 · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Throughout the 1990 s, there was an epidemic of multidrug resistant Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 in both animals and humans in Scotland. The use of antimicrobials in agriculture is often cited as a major source of antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria of humans, suggesting that DT104 in animals and humans should demonstrate similar prevalences of resistance determinants. Until very recently, only the application of molecular methods would allow such a comparison and our understanding has been hindered by the fact that surveillance data are primarily phenotypic in nature. Here, using large scale surveillance datasets and a novel Bayesian approach, we infer and compare the prevalence of Salmonella Genomic Island 1 (SGI1), SGI1 variants, and resistance determinants independent of SGI1 in animal and human DT104 isolates from such phenotypic data. We demonstrate differences in the prevalences of SGI1, SGI1-B, SGI1-C, absence of SGI1, and tetracycline resistance determinants independent of SGI1 between these human and animal populations, a finding that challenges established tenets that DT104 in domestic animals and humans are from the same well-mixed microbial population.
    PLoS ONE 11/2011; 6(11):e27220. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0027220 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We examined long-term surveillance data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 (DT104) isolates from concurrently sampled and sympatric human and animal populations in Scotland. Using novel ecological and epidemiological approaches to examine diversity, and phenotypic and temporal relatedness of the resistance profiles, we assessed the more probable source of resistance of these two populations. The ecological diversity of AMR phenotypes was significantly greater in human isolates than in animal isolates, at the resolution of both sample and population. Of 5200 isolates, there were 65 resistance phenotypes, 13 unique to animals, 30 unique to humans and 22 were common to both. Of these 22, 11 were identified first in the human isolates, whereas only five were identified first in the animal isolates. We conclude that, while ecologically connected, animals and humans have distinguishable DT104 communities, differing in prevalence, linkage and diversity. Furthermore, we infer that the sympatric animal population is unlikely to be the major source of resistance diversity for humans. This suggests that current policy emphasis on restricting antimicrobial use in domestic animals may be overly simplistic. While these conclusions pertain to DT104 in Scotland, this approach could be applied to AMR in other bacteria-host ecosystems.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 11/2011; 279(1733):1630-9. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2011.1975 · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The study of biological systems commonly depends on inferring the state of a 'hidden' variable, such as an underlying genotype, from that of an 'observed' variable, such as an expressed phenotype. However, this cannot be achieved using traditional quantitative methods when more than one genetic mechanism exists for a single observable phenotype. Using a novel latent class Bayesian model, it is possible to infer the prevalence of different genetic elements in a population given a sample of phenotypes. As an exemplar, data comprising phenotypic resistance to six antimicrobials obtained from passive surveillance of Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 are analysed to infer the prevalence of individual resistance genes, as well as the prevalence of a genomic island known as SGI1 and its variants. Three competing models are fitted to the data and distinguished between using posterior predictive p-values to assess their ability to predict the observed number of unique phenotypes. The results suggest that several SGI1 variants circulate in a few fixed forms through the population from which our data were derived. The methods presented could be applied to other types of phenotypic data, and represent a useful and generic mechanism of inferring the genetic population structure of organisms.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 10/2010; 278(1710):1434-40. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2010.1719 · 5.29 Impact Factor
  • Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. Proceedings of a meeting held in London, UK, on the 1st-3rd April 2009.; 01/2009
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    ABSTRACT: The putative source of hide contamination for 236 cattle in Scotland followed from the farm through to slaughter was determined using phage and verocytotoxin type data. The majority of cattle (84%) were found to have subtypes of Escherichia coli O157 on their hide that had not been found previously in any animal from the farm of origin, strongly suggesting that contamination occurred once animals had left the farm of origin. Using logistic regression analysis, several variables and factors were found to be strongly associated (P < 0.01) with cross-contamination of cattle hides at the univariate level; commercial transport to slaughter, transport with other animals, use of a crush, line automation, and increasing slaughterhouse throughput were all risk factors, while feeding hay in lairage, processing an animal earlier in a slaughter cohort, and cleaning the landing area poststunning were protective. In the multivariable model, with the slaughterhouse and the farm group included as random effects, factors associated with the cross-contamination of cattle hides were identified. Transport to the slaughterhouse by a commercial hauler had a borderline-significant association with increased odds of an animal having a cross-contaminated hide (odds ratio [OR] [95% confidence interval (CI)] = 5.7 [0.99, 33.0]; P = 0.05). At the slaughterhouse, providing hay to cattle waiting in lairage (OR [95% CI] = 0.04 [<0.01, 1.04]; P = 0.05) and cleaning the landing area (OR [95% CI] = 0.03 [<0.01, 1.15,]; P = 0.06) also had a borderline-significant association with decreased odds of an animal having a cross-contaminated hide. Although the prevalence of carcass contamination remains very low, targeted intervention at the preslaughter stage may have the potential to reduce further the risk to public health.
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology 09/2008; 74(20):6313-9. DOI:10.1128/AEM.00770-08 · 3.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the slaughter processing of cattle, contaminated hides have been identified as one of the major sources of Escherichia coli O157 carcase contamination. Logistic regression analysis was applied to data collected in a large scale study in Scotland involving 222 cattle forming 34 groups sent for slaughter from 30 farms to 10 slaughterhouses. Aspects of individual animal characteristics, farm management practices and slaughterhouse features were examined to identify potential risk factors for hide contamination at harvest. Two models were developed, the first in which slaughterhouse was modelled as a fixed effect, and a second model where slaughterhouse and farm groups were modelled as random effects. In the first model, there was a significantly increased risk of a carcase testing positive for E. coli O157 on the hide if either the hide of the carcase immediately before or after it on the line was contaminated (OR 3.6; 95% CI: 1.4-9.9). If both adjacent carcases had contaminated hides, the odds ratio for the study carcase having a contaminated hide rose to 11.5 (95% CI: 4.4-32.5). If animals were held in lairage, receiving hay as feed appeared to have a protective effect on hide contamination. Transportation to the slaughterhouse by haulier, as opposed to transport by the farmer, was associated with a 5.4 increase in the odds of E. coli O157 contamination. The use of a crush in the lairage, often employed when reading ear tags, was also found to significantly increase the odds of hide contamination with E. coli O157. In the second model, the inclusion of slaughterhouse and farm group as random effects resulted in two of the previously identified factors being associated with hide contamination. If at least one of the adjacent carcases on the line had a contaminated hide, the associated odds ratio was 6.6 (95% CI: 2.8-15.9), which rose to 22.7 (95% CI: 9.3-55.5) if both adjacent hides were contaminated. Receiving hay in lairage was found to be important to the model, although not significant in itself (OR 0.005; 95% CI: 1.2e(-6)-20.7). These results suggest that modifiable risk factors for hide contamination exist. However, in order best to reduce the prevalence of hide contamination at slaughter, individual slaughterhouse risk assessment and intervention strategies are appropriate.
    Preventive Veterinary Medicine 09/2007; 80(4):257-70. DOI:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2007.02.011 · 2.51 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

209 Citations
267.90 Total Impact Points


  • 2012–2015
    • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
      • Pathogen Genomics Group
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2010–2011
    • University of Glasgow
      • Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health
      Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • 2009
    • Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
      United Kingdom
  • 2007–2008
    • University of Guelph
      • Department of Population Medicine
      XIA, Ontario, Canada