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Microb Genom. 2019 Nov 4. doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000310. [Epub ahead of print]

Enhancing genomics-based outbreak detection of endemic Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium using dynamic thresholds.

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School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney, Westmead NSW, New South Wales, Australia.
Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology - Public Health, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Westmead Hospital, New South Wales, Australia.
Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is the leading cause of salmonellosis in Australia, and the ability to identify outbreaks and their sources is vital to public health. Here, we examined the utility of whole-genome sequencing (WGS), including complete genome sequencing with Oxford Nanopore technologies, in examining 105 isolates from an endemic multi-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) type over 5 years. The MLVA type was very homogeneous, with 90 % of the isolates falling into groups with a five SNP cut-off. We developed a new two-step approach for outbreak detection using WGS. The first clustering at a zero single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) cut-off was used to detect outbreak clusters that each occurred within a 4 week window and then a second clustering with dynamically increased SNP cut-offs were used to generate outbreak investigation clusters capable of identifying all outbreak cases. This approach offered optimal specificity and sensitivity for outbreak detection and investigation, in particular of those caused by endemic MLVA types or clones with low genetic diversity. We further showed that inclusion of complete genome sequences detected no additional mutational events for genomic outbreak surveillance. Phylogenetic analysis found that the MLVA type was likely to have been derived recently from a single source that persisted over 5 years, and seeded numerous sporadic infections and outbreaks. Our findings suggest that SNP cut-offs for outbreak cluster detection and public-health surveillance should be based on the local diversity of the relevant strains over time. These findings have general applicability to outbreak detection of bacterial pathogens.


Salmonella Typhimurium; bacterial population genomics; genetic clustering; genomic epidemiology; outbreak detection

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