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Phylodynamic Analysis of Clinical and Environmental Vibrio cholerae Isolates from Haiti Reveals Diversification Driven by Positive Selection

Azarian, Taj, Ali, Afsar, Johnson, Judith A., Mohr, David, Prosperi, Mattia, Veras, Nazle M., Jubair, Mohammed, Strickland, Samantha L., Rashid, Mohammad H., Alam, Meer T., Weppelmann, Thomas A., Katz, Lee S., Tarr, Cheryl L., Colwell, Rita R., Morris, J. Glenn, Salemi, Marco
mBio 2014 v.5 no.6 pp. e01824-14
Vibrio cholerae, aquatic environment, bacteria, cholera, diarrhea, disease outbreaks, genes, models, morbidity, mortality, phylogeny, population size, single nucleotide polymorphism, toxigenic strains, virulence, Haiti
Phylodynamic analysis of genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data is a powerful tool to investigate underlying evolutionary processes of bacterial epidemics. The method was applied to investigate a collection of 65 clinical and environmental isolates of Vibrio cholerae from Haiti collected between 2010 and 2012. Characterization of isolates recovered from environmental samples identified a total of four toxigenic V. cholerae O1 isolates, four non-O1/O139 isolates, and a novel nontoxigenic V. cholerae O1 isolate with the classical tcpA gene. Phylogenies of strains were inferred from genome-wide SNPs using coalescent-based demographic models within a Bayesian framework. A close phylogenetic relationship between clinical and environmental toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains was observed. As cholera spread throughout Haiti between October 2010 and August 2012, the population size initially increased and then fluctuated over time. Selection analysis along internal branches of the phylogeny showed a steady accumulation of synonymous substitutions and a progressive increase of nonsynonymous substitutions over time, suggesting diversification likely was driven by positive selection. Short-term accumulation of nonsynonymous substitutions driven by selection may have significant implications for virulence, transmission dynamics, and even vaccine efficacy.