Diversity of Orientia tsutsugamushi clinical isolates in Cambodia reveals active selection and recombination process.

Abstract : Orientia tsutsugamushi, the causative agent of scrub typhus in South East Asia and Pacific, is an obligate intracellular bacterium closely related to the Rickettsia. The pathogen is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected larvae of trombiculid mites of the genus Leptotrombidium in which is maintained trough vertical transmission mechanism. The infection in rodents has been described in over 20 species. Scrub typhus is commonly confused with other tropical fevers and late diagnosis and treatment can lead to severe organ failures and a strain-dependent mortality rate of up to 50%. A MLST scheme associating seven core function genes: adk, lepB, lipA, lipB, secY, sodB and sucA was developed and validated on seven Cambodian strains detected in patients and two complete reference genomes from Korea and Japan. Sequence data were analyzed both with respect to sequence type (ST) diversity and DNA polymorphism. Differing trends were revealed. DNA polymorphism and phylogeny of individual gene loci indicated a significant level of recombination and genetic diversity. However, the ST distribution is clearly clonal and the clinical situation can be summarized by the formula: one patient, one strain, one ST. This contradiction is only apparent and is most likely the consequence of the unique life cycle of O. tsutsugamushi. The quasi exclusive vertical transmission mode in mites generates repeated bottlenecks and small-size populations and strongly limits genetic diversity. O. tsutsugamushi has developed specific mechanisms for generating genetic diversity which include recombination, duplication and conjugation. Recombination and other mechanisms for increasing genetic diversity are likely to occur in rodents which can act as maintenance hosts, although occurrence in mites cannot be excluded. Consequences for the epidemiology of scrub typhus are discussed.
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Veasna Duong, Kim Blassdell, Thinh Thi Xuan May, Lay Sreyrath, Laurent Gavotte, et al.. Diversity of Orientia tsutsugamushi clinical isolates in Cambodia reveals active selection and recombination process.. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Elsevier, 2010, N/A (N/A), epub ahead of print. ⟨10.1016/j.meegid.2010.08.015⟩. ⟨pasteur-00808212⟩

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