[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plague, a primarily flea-borne disease caused by Yersinia pestis, is characterized by rapidly spreading epizootics separated by periods of quiescence. Little is known about how and where Y. pestis persists between epizootics. It is commonly proposed, however, that Y. pestis is maintained during interepizootic periods in enzootic cycles involving flea vectors and relatively resistant host populations. According to this model, while susceptible individuals serve as infectious sources for feeding fleas and subsequently die of infection, resistant hosts survive infection, develop antibodies to the plague bacterium, and continue to provide bloodmeals to infected fleas. For Y. pestis to persist under this scenario, fleas must remain infected after feeding on hosts carrying antibodies to Y. pestis. Studies of other vector-borne pathogens suggest that host immunity may negatively impact pathogen survival in the vector. Here, we report infection rates and bacterial loads for fleas (both Xenopsylla cheopis (Rothschild) and Oropsylla montana (Baker)) that consumed an infectious bloodmeal and subsequently fed on an immunized or age-matched naive mouse. We demonstrate that neither the proportion of infected fleas nor the bacterial loads in infected fleas were significantly lower within 3 d of feeding on immunized versus naive mice. Our findings thus provide support for one assumption underlying the enzootic host model of interepizootic maintenance of Y. pestis.
Journal of Medical Entomology 09/2014; 51(5). DOI:10.1603/ME14080 · 1.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background. Francisella novicida is a rare cause of human illness despite its close genetic relationship to Francisella tularensis, the agent of tularemia. During April-July 2011, 3 inmates at a Louisiana correctional facility developed F. novicida bacteremia; 1 inmate died acutely. Methods. We interviewed surviving inmates; reviewed laboratory, medical, and housing records; and conducted an environmental investigation. Clinical and environmental samples were tested by culture, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and multigene sequencing. Isolates were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Results. Clinical isolates were identified as F. novicida based on sequence analyses of the 16S ribosomal RNA, pgm, and pdpD genes. PmeI PFGE patterns for the clinical isolates were indistinguishable. Source patients were aged 40-56 years, male, and African American, and all were immunocompromised. Two patients presented with signs of bacterial peritonitis; the third had pyomyositis of the thigh. The 3 inmates had no contact with one another; their only shared exposures were consumption of municipal water and of ice that was mass-produced at the prison in an unenclosed building. Swabs from one set of ice machines and associated ice scoops yielded evidence of F. novicida by PCR and sequencing. All other environmental specimens tested negative. Conclusions. To our knowledge, this is the first reported common-source outbreak of F. novicida infections in humans. Epidemiological and laboratory evidence implicate contaminated ice as the likely vehicle of transmission; liver disease may be a predisposing factor. Clinicians, laboratorians, and public health officials should be aware of the potential for misidentification of F. novicida as F. tularensis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We used whole-genome analysis and subsequent characterization of geographically diverse strains using new genetic signatures to identify distinct subgroups within Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis group A.I: A.I.3, A.I.8, and A.I.12. These subgroups exhibit complex phylogeographic patterns within North America. The widest distribution was observed for A.I.12, which suggests an adaptive advantage.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of the acute disease tularemia. Due to its extreme infectivity and ability to cause disease upon inhalation, F. tularensis has been classified as a biothreat agent. Two subspecies of F. tularensis, tularensis and holarctica, are responsible for tularemia in humans. In comparison, the closely related species F. novicida very rarely causes human illness and cases that do occur are associated with patients who are immune compromised or have other underlying health problems. Virulence between F. tularensis and F. novicida also differs in laboratory animals. Despite this varying capacity to cause disease, the two species share ~97% nucleotide identity, with F. novicida commonly used as a laboratory surrogate for F. tularensis. As the F. novicida U112 strain is exempt from U.S. select agent regulations, research studies can be carried out in non-registered laboratories lacking specialized containment facilities required for work with virulent F. tularensis strains. This review is designed to highlight phenotypic (clinical, ecological, virulence, and pathogenic) and genomic differences between F. tularensis and F. novicida that warrant maintaining F. novicida and F. tularensis as separate species. Standardized nomenclature for F. novicida is critical for accurate interpretation of experimental results, limiting clinical confusion between F. novicida and F. tularensis and ensuring treatment efficacy studies utilize virulent F. tularensis strains.
Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology 03/2014; 4:35. DOI:10.3389/fcimb.2014.00035 · 2.62 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A large circular plasmid detected in Francisella novicida-like strain PA10-7858, designated pFNPA10, was sequenced completely and analyzed. This 41 013-bp plasmid showed no homology to any of the previously sequenced Francisella plasmids and was 8–10 times larger in size than them. A total of 57 ORFs were identified within pFNPA10 and at least 9 of them encoded putative proteins with homology to different conjugal transfer proteins. The presence of iteron-like direct repeats and an ORF encoding a putative replication protein within pFNPA10 suggested that it replicated by the theta mode. Phylogenetic analyses indicated that pFNPA10 had no near neighbors in the databases and that it may have originated within an environmental Francisella lineage. Based on its features, pFNPA10 appears to be a novel extra-chromosomal genetic element within the genus Francisella. The suitability of pFNPA10 as a vector for transformation of species of Francisella by conjugation remains to be explored.
Historical Journal Of Film Radio and Television 03/2014; 57(3). DOI:10.1139/gen-2013-0231
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The use of prototypic strains is common among laboratories studying infectious agents as it promotes consistency for data comparability among and between laboratories. Schu S4 is the prototypic virulent strain of Francisella tularensis and has been used extensively as such over the past six decades. Studies have demonstrated virulence differences among the two clinically relevant subspecies of F. tularensis, tularensis (type A) and holarctica (type B) and more recently between type A subpopulations (A1a, A1b and A2). Schu S4 belongs to the most virulent subspecies of F. tularensis, subspecies tularensis.
In this study, we investigated the relative virulence of Schu S4 in comparison to A1a, A1b, A2 and type B strains using a temperature-based murine model of infection. Mice were inoculated intradermally and a hypothermic drop point was used as a surrogate for death. Survival curves and the length of temperature phases were compared for all infections. Bacterial burdens were also compared between the most virulent type A subpopulation, A1b, and Schu S4 at drop point.
Survival curve comparisons demonstrate that the Schu S4 strain used in this study resembles the virulence of type B strains, and is significantly less virulent than all other type A (A1a, A1b and A2) strains tested. Additionally, when bacterial burdens were compared between mice infected with Schu S4 or MA00-2987 (A1b) significantly higher burdens were present in the blood and spleen of mice infected with MA00-2987.
The knowledge gained from using Schu S4 as a prototypic virulent strain has unquestionably advanced the field of tularemia research. The findings of this study, however, indicate that careful consideration of F. tularensis strain selection must occur when the overall virulence of the strain used could impact the outcome and interpretation of results.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A 69 year old patient presented with a tender, thickly-crusted skin lesion of one week's duration. A bacterial culture swab taken from the underlying granular tissue yielded a pure isolate of a gram-negative coccobacillus, presumptively identified as a novel Francisella species via 16S rRNA and multi-locus gene sequence analysis.
Journal of clinical microbiology 07/2013; DOI:10.1128/JCM.01105-13 · 4.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The study of infectious agents, their pathogenesis, the host response and the evaluation of newly developed countermeasures often requires the use of a living system. Murine models are frequently used to undertake such investigations with the caveat that non-biased measurements to assess the progression of infection are underutilized. Instead, murine models predominantly rely on symptomology exhibited by the animal to evaluate the state of the animal's health and to determine when euthanasia should be performed. In this study, we used subcutaneous temperature as a non-subjective measurement to follow and compare infection in mice inoculated with Francisella tularensis, a Gram-negative pathogen that produces an acute and fatal illness in mice. A reproducible temperature pattern defined by three temperature phases (normal, febrile and hypothermic) was identified in all mice infected with F. tularensis, regardless of the infecting strain. More importantly and for the first time a non-subjective, ethical, and easily determined surrogate endpoint for death based on a temperature, termed drop point, was identified and validated with statistical models. In comparative survival curve analyses for F. tularensis strains with differing virulence, the drop point temperature yielded the same results as those obtained using observed time to death. Incorporation of temperature measurements to evaluate F. tularensis was standardized based on statistical models to provide a new level of robustness for comparative analyses in mice. These findings should be generally applicable to other pathogens that produce acute febrile disease in animal models and offers an important tool for understanding and following the infection process.
PLoS ONE 09/2012; 7(9):e45310. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0045310 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abstract Plague, an often-fatal zoonotic disease caused by Yersinia pestis, is characterized by epizootic and quiescent periods. How Y. pestis is maintained during inter-epizootic periods is poorly understood, but soil has been implicated as a potential reservoir. Although previous studies have suggested that Y. pestis is able to survive in soil for weeks or months, it is unclear whether or not it is infectious to susceptible hosts. Here we investigate the potential for Y. pestis to infect mice through close contact with contaminated soil under laboratory conditions. In an attempt to approximate the natural conditions under which animals would be exposed to Y. pestis-contaminated soil, mouse cages filled with soil from a plague-endemic region were held at temperature and humidity ranges observed in ground squirrel burrows. These laboratory "burrows" were contaminated with highly bacteremic blood (>10(8) cfu/mL) to simulate the introduction of infectious material from a dying animal during an epizootic. Outbred Swiss-Webster mice with scarified skin patches were held on contaminated soil for 10 days and monitored for signs of illness. Following exposure to contaminated soil, one animal of 104 became infected with Y. pestis. None of the remaining animals seroconverted following a 21-day holding period. Under our experimental conditions, which maximized the likelihood of contact between susceptible mice and contaminated soil, transmission efficiency from soil to mice was 0.96% (95% CI 0.17, 5.25%). This suggests that although transmission of Y. pestis from contaminated soils is possible, it is not likely a major transmission route under natural conditions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis is an intracellular pathogen that causes tularemia in humans and the public health importance of this bacterium has been well documented in recent history. Francisella philomiragia, a distant relative of F. tularensis, is thought to constitute an environmental lineage along with Francisella novicida. Nevertheless, both F. philomiragia and F. novicida have been associated with human disease, primarily in immune-compromised individuals. To understand the genetic relationships and evolutionary contexts among different lineages within the genus Francisella, the genome of Francisella spp. strain TX07-7308 was sequenced and compared to the genomes of F. philomiragia strains ATCC 25017 and 25015, F. novicida strain U112, and F. tularensis strain Schu S4.
The size of strain ATCC 25017 chromosome was 2,045,775 bp and contained 1,983 protein-coding genes. The size of strain TX07-7308 chromosome was 2,035,931 bp and contained 1,980 protein-coding genes. Pairwise BLAST comparisons indicated that strains TX07-7308 and ATCC 25017 contained 1,700 protein coding genes in common. NUCmer analyses revealed that the chromosomes of strains TX07-7308 and ATCC 25017 were mostly collinear except for a few gaps, translocations, and/or inversions. Using the genome sequence data and comparative analyses with other members of the genus Francisella (e.g., F. novicida strain U112 and F. tularensis strain Schu S4), several strain-specific genes were identified. Strains TX07-7308 and ATCC 25017 contained an operon with six open reading frames encoding proteins related to enzymes involved in thiamine biosynthesis that was absent in F. novicida strain U112 and F. tularensis strain Schu S4. Strain ATCC 25017 contained an operon putatively involved in lactose metabolism that was absent in strain TX07-7308, F. novicida strain U112, and F. tularensis strain Schu S4. In contrast, strain TX07-7308 contained an operon putatively involved in glucuronate metabolism that was absent in the genomes of strain ATCC 25017, F. novicida strain U112, and F. tularensis strain Schu S4. The polymorphic nature of polysaccharide biosynthesis/modification gene clusters among different Francisella strains was also evident from genome analyses.
From genome comparisons, it appeared that genes encoding novel functions have contributed to the metabolic enrichment of the environmental lineages within the genus Francisella. The inability to acquire new genes coupled with the loss of ancestral traits and the consequent reductive evolution may be a cause for, as well as an effect of, niche selection of F. tularensis. Sequencing and comparison of the genomes of more isolates are required to obtain further insights into the ecology and evolution of different species within the genus Francisella.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We describe a rare case of Francisella novicida bacteremia following a near-drowning event in seawater. We highlight the challenges associated with laboratory identification of F. novicida and differences in the epidemiology of F. novicida and Francisella tularensis infections.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of plague, a fulminant disease that is often fatal without antimicrobial treatment. Plasmid (IncA/C)-mediated multidrug resistance in Y. pestis was reported in 1995 in Madagascar and has generated considerable public health concern, most recently because of the identification of IncA/C multidrug-resistant plasmids in other zoonotic pathogens. Here, we demonstrate no resistance in 392 Y. pestis isolates from 17 countries to eight antimicrobials used for treatment or prophylaxis of plague.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say) (Acari: Ixodidae), has been implicated as a potential bridging vector to humans of Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia. Since the initial studies evaluating vector competency of D. variabilis were conducted, F. tularensis has been subdivided into subspecies and clades that differ in their geographical distribution in the United States and in the severity of infections caused in humans. Here, we demonstrate that D. variabilis nymphs efficiently acquire, transtadially maintain, and transmit each of the strains tested (clades A1b and A2, and type B). Transmission efficiency by adult females was similarly high among infection groups and ranged from 58% for type B to 89% for A2 infections. In addition, we demonstrated that transmission can occur shortly after tick attachment. These findings support the concept that D. variabilis adults may play a significant role in epizootic transmission of F. tularensis, and as a bridging vector to humans.
Journal of Medical Entomology 07/2011; 48(4):884-90. DOI:10.1603/ME11005 · 1.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study evaluated commercial automated and manual DNA extraction methods for the isolation of Francisella tularensis DNA suitable for real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis from cell suspensions and spiked cotton, foam, and polyester swabs. Two automated methods, the MagNA Pure Compact and the QIAcube, were compared to 4 manual methods, the IT 1-2-3 DNA sample purification kit, the MasterPure Complete DNA and RNA purification kit, the QIAamp DNA blood mini kit, and the UltraClean Microbial DNA isolation kit. The methods were compared using 6 F. tularensis strains representing the 2 subspecies which cause the majority of reported cases of tularemia in humans. Cell viability testing of the DNA extracts showed that all 6 extraction methods efficiently inactivated F. tularensis at concentrations of ≤10⁶ CFU/mL. Real-time PCR analysis using a multitarget 5' nuclease assay for F. tularensis revealed that the PCR sensitivity was equivalent using DNA extracted by the 2 automated methods and the manual MasterPure and QIAamp methods. These 4 methods resulted in significantly better levels of detection from bacterial suspensions and performed equivalently for spiked swab samples than the remaining 2. This study identifies optimal DNA extraction methods for processing swab specimens for the subsequent detection of F. tularensis DNA using real-time PCR assays. Furthermore, the results provide diagnostic laboratories with the option to select from 2 automated DNA extraction methods as suitable alternatives to manual methods for the isolation of DNA from F. tularensis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genotyping of Francisella tularensis (A1a, A1b, A2, and type B) and Francisella novicida has identified multiple differences between species and among F. tularensis subspecies and subpopulations. Variations in virulence, geographic distribution, and ecology are also known to exist among this group of bacteria, despite the >95% nucleotide identity in their genomes. This study expands the description of phenotypic differences by evaluating the ability of F. tularensis and F. novicida to degrade chitin analogs and produce active chitinases. Endochitinase activities were observed to vary among F. tularensis and F. novicida strains. The activity observed for F. tularensis strains was predominantly associated with whole-cell lysates, while the chitinase activity of F. novicida localized to the culture supernatant. In addition, the overall level of chitinase activity differed among the subpopulations of F. tularensis and between the species. Bioinformatic analyses identified two new putative chitinase genes (chiC and chiD), as well as the previously described chiA and chiB. However, the presence of these four open reading frames as intact genes or pseudogenes was found to differ between Francisella species and F. tularensis subspecies and subpopulations. Recombinant production of the putative chitinases and enzymatic evaluations revealed ChiA, ChiB, ChiC, and ChiD possessed dissimilar chitinase activities. These biochemical studies coupled with bioinformatic analyses and the evaluation of chiA and chiC knockouts in F. tularensis A1 and A2 strains, respectively, provided a molecular basis to explain the differential chitinase activities observed among the species and subpopulations of Francisella.
Journal of bacteriology 07/2011; 193(13):3265-75. DOI:10.1128/JB.00093-11 · 2.69 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Francisella novicida is a close relative of Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia. The genomes of F. novicida-like clinical isolates 3523 (Australian strain) and Fx1 (Texas strain) were sequenced and compared to F. novicida strain U112 and F. tularensis strain Schu S4. The strain 3523 chromosome is 1,945,310 bp and contains 1,854 protein-coding genes. The strain Fx1 chromosome is 1,913,619 bp and contains 1,819 protein-coding genes. NUCmer analyses revealed that the genomes of strains Fx1 and U112 are mostly colinear, whereas the genome of strain 3523 has gaps, translocations, and/or inversions compared to genomes of strains Fx1 and U112. Using the genome sequence data and comparative analyses with other members of the genus Francisella, several strain-specific genes that encode putative proteins involved in RTX toxin production, polysaccharide biosynthesis/modification, thiamine biosynthesis, glucuronate utilization, and polyamine biosynthesis were identified. The RTX toxin synthesis and secretion operon of strain 3523 contains four open reading frames (ORFs) and was named rtxCABD. Based on the alignment of conserved sequences upstream of operons involved in thiamine biosynthesis from various bacteria, a putative THI box was identified in strain 3523. The glucuronate catabolism loci of strains 3523 and Fx1 contain a cluster of nine ORFs oriented in the same direction that appear to constitute an operon. Strains U112 and Schu S4 appeared to have lost the loci for RTX toxin production, thiamine biosynthesis, and glucuronate utilization as a consequence of host adaptation and reductive evolution. In conclusion, comparative analyses provided insights into the common ancestry and novel genetic traits of these strains.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plague is a pandemic human invasive disease caused by the bacterial agent Yersinia pestis. We here report a comparison of 17 whole genomes of Y. pestis isolates from global sources. We also screened a global collection of 286 Y. pestis isolates for 933 SNPs using Sequenom MassArray SNP typing. We conducted phylogenetic analyses on this sequence variation dataset, assigned isolates to populations based on maximum parsimony and, from these results, made inferences regarding historical transmission routes. Our phylogenetic analysis suggests that Y. pestis evolved in or near China and spread through multiple radiations to Europe, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, leading to country-specific lineages that can be traced by lineage-specific SNPs. All 626 current isolates from the United States reflect one radiation, and 82 isolates from Madagascar represent a second radiation. Subsequent local microevolution of Y. pestis is marked by sequential, geographically specific SNPs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia, is regarded as a potential bioterrorism agent. The advent of bioterrorism has heightened awareness of the need for validated methods for processing environmental samples. In this study we determined the optimal method for processing environmental swabs for the recovery and subsequent detection of F. tularensis by the use of real-time PCR assays. Four swab processing recovery methods were compared: heat, sonication, vortexing, and the Swab Extraction Tube System (SETS). These methods were evaluated using cotton, foam, polyester and rayon swabs spiked with six pathogenic strains of F. tularensis. Real-time PCR analysis using a multi-target 5'nuclease assay for F. tularensis showed that the use of the SETS method resulted in the best limit of detection when evaluated using multiple strains of F. tularensis. We demonstrated also that the efficiency of F. tularensis recovery from swab specimens was not equivalent for all swab processing methodologies and, thus, that this variable can affect real-time PCR assay sensitivity. The effectiveness of the SETS method was independent of the automated DNA extraction method and real-time PCR platforms used. In conclusion, diagnostic laboratories can now potentially incorporate the SETS method into specimen processing protocols for the rapid and efficient detection of F. tularensis by real-time PCR during laboratory bioterrorism-related investigations.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the United States, the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say) is considered an important biological vector of Francisella tularensis, the etiologic agent of tularemia. In this study, we evaluated the vector efficiency of nymphal D. variabilis infected as larvae with differing clades and subspecies (A1b, A2, and type B) of F. tularensis. In all cases, D. variabilis larvae were able to acquire, maintain, and transstadially transmit F. tularensis. Significant replication of the bacteria also occurred in infected nymphs. Transmission of F. tularensis to Swiss Webster mice was not observed with A1b, and low rates were observed with A2 (8.0%) and type B (13.5%). Negative effects on tick survivorship were also observed for A1b, A2, and type B infections. Our results provide evidence of a high fitness cost and low transmission rates during the immature stages, suggesting that D. variabilis may play a limited role in enzootic maintenance of F. tularensis.
The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 09/2010; 83(3):645-52. DOI:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.10-0127 · 2.74 Impact Factor