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Seasonal Pattern of Mycobacterium ulcerans, the Causative Agent of Buruli Ulcer, in the Environment in Ghana

Aboagye, Samuel Yaw, Ampah, Kobina Assan, Ross, Amanda, Asare, Prince, Otchere, Isaac Darko, Fyfe, Janet, Yeboah-Manu, Dorothy
Microbial ecology 2017 v.74 no.2 pp. 350-361
DNA, Mycobacterium ulcerans, dry season, ecology, genes, mosses and liverworts, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, rain, seasonal variation, snails, soil, vegetation, watersheds, Ghana
This study aimed to contribute to the understanding of Mycobacterium ulcerans (MU) ecology by analysing both clinical and environmental samples collected from ten communities along two major river basins (Offin and Densu) associated with Buruli ulcer (BU) at different seasons. We collected clinical samples from presumptive BU cases and environmental samples from ten communities. Following DNA extraction, clinical samples were confirmed by IS2404 PCR and environmental samples were confirmed by targeting MU-specific genes, IS2404, IS2606 and the ketoreductase (KR) using real-time PCR. Environmental samples were first analysed for IS2404; after which, IS2404-positive samples were multiplexed for the IS2606 and KR gene. Our findings indicate an overall decline in BU incidence along both river basins, although incidence at Densu outweighs that of Offin. Overall, 1600 environmental samples were screened along Densu (434, 27 %) and Offin (1166, 73 %) and MU was detected in 139 (9 %) of the combined samples. The positivity of MU along the Densu River basin was 89/434 (20.5 %), whilst that of the Offin River basin was 50/1166 (4.3 %). The DNA was detected mainly in snails (5/6, 83 %), moss (8/40, 20 %), soil (55/586, 9 %) and vegetation (55/675, 8 %). The proportion of MU positive samples recorded was higher during the months with higher rainfall levels (126/1175, 11 %) than during the dry season months (13/425, 3 %). This study indicates for the first time that there is a seasonal pattern in the presence of MU in the environment, which may be related to recent rainfall or water in the soil.