Evolutionary dynamics of Staphylococcus aureus during progression from carriage to disease
Young, B. C., Golubchik, T., Batty, E. M., Fung, R., Larner-Svensson, H., Votintseva, A. A., Miller, R. R., Godwin, H., Knox, K., Everitt, R. G., Iqbal, Z., Rimmer, A. J., Cule, M., Ip, C. L. C., Didelot, X., Harding, R. M., Donnelly, P., Peto, T. E., Crook, D. W., Bowden, R. and Wilson, D. J. (2012) Evolutionary dynamics of Staphylococcus aureus during progression from carriage to disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (12). pp. 4550-4555. ISSN 0027-8424
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113219109
Whole-genome sequencing offers new insights into the evolution of bacterial pathogens and the etiology of bacterial disease. Staph- ylococcus aureus is a major cause of bacteria-associated mortality and invasive disease and is carried asymptomatically by 27% of adults. Eighty percent of bacteremias match the carried strain. How- ever, the role of evolutionary change in the pathogen during the progression from carriage to disease is incompletely understood. Here we use high-throughput genome sequencing to discover the genetic changes that accompany the transition from nasal carriage to fatal bloodstream infection in an individual colonized with meth- icillin-sensitive S. aureus. We found a single, cohesive population exhibiting a repertoire of 30 single-nucleotide polymorphisms and four insertion/deletion variants. Mutations accumulated at a steady rate over a 13-mo period, except for a cluster of mutations preceding the transition to disease. Although bloodstream bacteria differed by just eight mutations from the original nasally carried bacteria, half of those mutations caused truncation of proteins, including a prema- ture stop codon in an AraC-family transcriptional regulator that has been implicated in pathogenicity. Comparison with evolution in two asymptomatic carriers supported the conclusion that clusters of pro- tein-truncating mutations are highly unusual. Our results demon- strate that bacterial diversity in vivo is limited but nonetheless detectable by whole-genome sequencing, enabling the study of evolutionary dynamics within the host. Regulatory or structural changes that occur during carriage may be functionally important for pathogenesis; therefore identifying those changes is a crucial step in understanding the biological causes of invasive bacterial disease.