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Vol.102, No.44 , 2005; Pages:

Comparative phylogenomics of the food-borne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni reveals genetic markers predictive of infection source

Olivia L. Champion*, Michael W. Gaunt*, Ozan Gundogdu*, Abdi Elmi*, Adam A. Witney†, Jason Hinds†, Nick Dorrell*,
and Brendan W. Wren*‡

Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, United Kingdom.


Campylobacter jejuni is the predominant cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, but traditional typing methods are unable to discriminate strains from different sources that cause disease in humans. We report the use of genomotyping (whole-genome comparisons of microbes using DNA microarrays) combined with Bayesian-based algorithms to model the phylogeny of this major food-borne pathogen. In this study 111 C. jejuni strains were examined by genomotyping isolates from humans with a spectrum of C. jejuni-associated disease (70 strains), chickens (17 strains), bovines (13 strains), ovines (5 strains), and the environment (6 strains). From these data, the Bayesian phylogeny of the isolates revealed two distinct clades unequivocally supported by Bayesian probabilities (P= 1); a livestock clade comprising 31/35 (88.6%) of the livestock isolates and a ‘‘nonlivestock’’ clade comprising further clades of environmental isolates. Several genes were identified as characteristic of strains in the livestock clade. The most prominent was a cluster of six genes (cj1321 to cj1326) within the flagellin glycosylation locus, which were confirmed by PCR analysis as genetic markers in six additional chicken-associated strains. Surprisingly these studies show that the majority (39/70, 55.7%) of C. jejuni human isolates were found in the nonlivestock clade, suggesting that most C. jejuni infections may be from nonlivestock (and possibly nonagricultural) sources. This study has provided insight into a previously unidentified reservoir of C. jejuni infection that may have implications in disease-control strategies. The comparative phylogenomics approach described provides a robust methodological prototype that should be applicable to other microbes.

Keywords: phylogenomics, food-borne pathogen, Campylobacter jejuni, pathogens.

Corresponding author: Phone: xxxxxxxxxxx Fax: xxxxxxxxxxx

E-mail: brendan.wren@lshtm.ac.uk.


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