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Differentiation between persistent infection/colonization and re-infection/re-colonization of Mycobacterium abscessus isolated from patients in Northeast Thailand

Kham-ngam, Irin, Chetchotisakd, Ploenchan, Ananta, Pimjai, Chaimanee, Prajaub, Reechaipichitkul, Wipa, Lulitanond, Viraphong, Namwat, Wises, Faksri, Kiatichai
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2019 v.68 pp. 35-42
DNA, Mycobacterium abscessus, chronic diseases, clarithromycin, clones, drug resistance, drugs, genes, genetic variation, minimum inhibitory concentration, molecular epidemiology, multilocus sequence typing, patients, phylogeny, single nucleotide polymorphism, Thailand
Mycobacterium abscessus can cause true infection or be present in the host as a harmless colonist. The ability of M. abscessus to cause disease and develop drug resistance is known to have a genetic basis. We aimed to differentiate between persistent infection and reinfection using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and to study the genetic diversity of M. abscessus relative to multi-organ infection and drug resistance in Northeast Thailand. DNA was extracted from 62 M. abscessus isolates (24 cases). The following genes were sequenced: argH, cya, glpK, gnd, murC, pta, purH and rpoB. Drug susceptibility tests were performed using broth microdilution. Subspecies classification and phylogeny were determined. Among the 24 cases (62 isolates), 19 cases (49 isolates) were of true NTM infection and 5 cases (13 isolates) examples of colonization. Two subspecies, M. abscessus subsp. massiliense (12 cases, 32 isolates) and M. abscessus subsp. abscessus (12 cases, 30 isolates) were identified. The major sequence type (ST) was ST227. Two clonal groups among patients were found; clonal cluster I (5 cases, 8 isolates) and clonal cluster II (2 cases, 4 isolates) but no epidemiological link was apparent. Reinfection (2 cases with different clones of M. abscessus strains; >9 SNPs different) and persistent infection (14 cases with the same clone; <6 SNPs) were distinguished based on a phylogeny. Based on these SNP cutoff values, 3 cases of persistent colonization (same strain through time) and 2 cases of re-colonization (different strains through time) were identified. M. abscessus subsp. abscessus was significantly associated with clarithromycin resistance (p < .001) and multi-organ infection (p = .03). Molecular epidemiology based on MLST can be used to differentiate between reinfection vs persistent infection, persistent colonization vs re-colonization. ST227 was the main epidemic strain in Northeast Thailand.