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J Clin Microbiol. 2014 Apr;52(4):1119-26. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02669-13. Epub 2014 Jan 22.

Genomic portrait of the evolution and epidemic spread of a recently emerged multidrug-resistant Shigella flexneri clone in China.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China.


Shigella flexneri is the major cause of shigellosis in developing countries. A new S. flexneri serotype, Xv, appeared in 2000 and replaced serotype 2a as the most prevalent serotype in China. Serotype Xv is a variant of serotype X, with phosphoethanolamine modification of its O antigen mediated by a plasmid that contained the opt gene. Serotype Xv isolates belong to sequence type 91 (ST91). In this study, whole-genome sequencing of 59 S. flexneri isolates of 14 serotypes (serotypes 1 to 4, Y, Yv, X, and Xv) indicated that ST91 arose around 1993 by acquiring multidrug resistance (MDR) and spread across China within a decade. A comparative analysis of the chromosome and opt-carrying plasmid pSFXv_2 revealed independent origins of 3 serotype Xv clusters in China, with different divergence times. Using 18 cluster-dividing single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), SNP typing divided 380 isolates from 3 provinces (Henan, Gansu, and Anhui) into 5 SNP genotypes (SGs). One SG predominated in each province, but substantial interregional spread of SGs was also evident. These findings suggest that MDR is the key selective pressure for the emergence of the S. flexneri epidemic clone and that Shigella epidemics in China were caused by a combination of local expansion and interregional spread of serotype Xv.

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