Development of rapid and highly resolving combinatorial genotyping schemes for Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli

Merchant-Patel, Shreema (2009) Development of rapid and highly resolving combinatorial genotyping schemes for Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Campylobacter jejuni followed by Campylobacter coli contribute substantially to the economic and public health burden attributed to food-borne infections in Australia. Genotypic characterisation of isolates has provided new insights into the epidemiology and pathogenesis of C. jejuni and C. coli. However, currently available methods are not conducive to large scale epidemiological investigations that are necessary to elucidate the global epidemiology of these common food-borne pathogens. This research aims to develop high resolution C. jejuni and C. coli genotyping schemes that are convenient for high throughput applications.

Real-time PCR and High Resolution Melt (HRM) analysis are fundamental to the genotyping schemes developed in this study and enable rapid, cost effective, interrogation of a range of different polymorphic sites within the Campylobacter genome. While the sources and routes of transmission of campylobacters are unclear, handling and consumption of poultry meat is frequently associated with human campylobacteriosis in Australia. Therefore, chicken derived C. jejuni and C. coli isolates were used to develop and verify the methods described in this study.

The first aim of this study describes the application of MLST-SNP (Multi Locus Sequence Typing Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) + binary typing to 87 chicken C. jejuni isolates using real-time PCR analysis. These typing schemes were developed previously by our research group using isolates from campylobacteriosis patients. This present study showed that SNP + binary typing alone or in combination are effective at detecting epidemiological linkage between chicken derived Campylobacter isolates and enable data comparisons with other MLST based investigations. SNP + binary types obtained from chicken isolates in this study were compared with a previously SNP + binary and MLST typed set of human isolates. Common genotypes between the two collections of isolates were identified and ST-524 represented a clone that could be worth monitoring in the chicken meat industry. In contrast, ST-48, mainly associated with bovine hosts, was abundant in the human isolates. This genotype was, however, absent in the chicken isolates, indicating the role of non-poultry sources in causing human Campylobacter infections. This demonstrates the potential application of SNP + binary typing for epidemiological investigations and source tracing.

While MLST SNPs and binary genes comprise the more stable backbone of the Campylobacter genome and are indicative of long term epidemiological linkage of the isolates, the development of a High Resolution Melt (HRM) based curve analysis method to interrogate the hypervariable Campylobacter flagellin encoding gene (flaA) is described in Aim 2 of this study. The flaA gene product appears to be an important pathogenicity determinant of campylobacters and is therefore a popular target for genotyping, especially for short term epidemiological studies such as outbreak investigations. HRM curve analysis based flaA interrogation is a single-step closed-tube method that provides portable data that can be easily shared and accessed. Critical to the development of flaA HRM was the use of flaA specific primers that did not amplify the flaB gene. HRM curve analysis flaA interrogation was successful at discriminating the 47 sequence variants identified within the 87 C. jejuni and 15 C. coli isolates and correlated to the epidemiological background of the isolates. In the combinatorial format, the resolving power of flaA was additive to that of SNP + binary typing and CRISPR (Clustered regularly spaced short Palindromic repeats) HRM and fits the PHRANA (Progressive hierarchical resolving assays using nucleic acids) approach for genotyping. The use of statistical methods to analyse the HRM data enhanced sophistication of the method. Therefore, flaA HRM is a rapid and cost effective alternative to gel- or sequence-based flaA typing schemes.

Aim 3 of this study describes the development of a novel bioinformatics driven method to interrogate Campylobacter MLST gene fragments using HRM, and is called ‘SNP Nucleated Minim MLST’ or ‘Minim typing’. The method involves HRM interrogation of MLST fragments that encompass highly informative “Nucleating SNPS” to ensure high resolution. Selection of fragments potentially suited to HRM analysis was conducted in silico using i) “Minimum SNPs” and ii) the new ’HRMtype’ software packages. Species specific sets of six “Nucleating SNPs” and six HRM fragments were identified for both C. jejuni and C. coli to ensure high typeability and resolution relevant to the MLST database. ‘Minim typing’ was tested empirically by typing 15 C. jejuni and five C. coli isolates. The association of clonal complexes (CC) to each isolate by ‘Minim typing’ and SNP + binary typing were used to compare the two MLST interrogation schemes. The CCs linked with each C. jejuni isolate were consistent for both methods. Thus, ‘Minim typing’ is an efficient and cost effective method to interrogate MLST genes. However, it is not expected to be independent, or meet the resolution of, sequence based MLST gene interrogation. ‘Minim typing’ in combination with flaA HRM is envisaged to comprise a highly resolving combinatorial typing scheme developed around the HRM platform and is amenable to automation and multiplexing.

The genotyping techniques described in this thesis involve the combinatorial interrogation of differentially evolving genetic markers on the unified real-time PCR and HRM platform. They provide high resolution and are simple, cost effective and ideally suited to rapid and high throughput genotyping for these common food-borne pathogens.

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ID Code: 33194
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Giffard, Philip, Huygens, Flavia, & Blackall, Pat
Keywords: Campylobacter jejuni , Campylobacter coli, chicken, genotyping, combinatorial, real-time PCR, high resolution melt, HRM, SNPs, binary genes, flaA, ‘Minim typing’, ‘HRMtype’, MLST, ‘Minimum SNPs’, resolution, epidemiology
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 20 Jul 2010 02:37
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:56

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