Molecular and phylogenetic analyses of Salmonella Gallinarum trace the origin and diversification of recent outbreaks of fowl typhoid in poultry farms


De Carli S, Gräf T, Kipper D, Lehmann FKM, Zanetti N, Siqueira FM, Cibulski S, Fonseca ASK, Ikuta N, Lunge VR


Fowl typhoid (FT) and pullorum disease (PD) are two important poultry infections caused by Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serotype Gallinarum (S. Gallinarum). S. Gallinarum strains are adapted to birds and classified into biovars Gallinarum (bvGA) and Pullorum (bvPU) as they are the causative agent of FT and PD, respectively. In Brazil, FT/PD outbreaks have been reported along the last 50 years, but there was a recent increase of FT field reports with the suspicion it could be due to virulence reversion of the attenuated live vaccine SG9R. In this study, we applied molecular biology assays and phylogenetic methods to detect and investigate S. Gallinarum isolates from commercial poultry flocks in order to understand the evolutionary history and origin of the recent FT outbreaks in Brazil. S. Gallinarum isolates were obtained from thirteen different poultry flocks with clinical signs of FT/PD from 2013 to 2015. These isolates were serotyped, tested with three specific PCR (for the detection of bvGA, bvPU and live vaccine strain SG9R) and submitted to sequencing of a variable genome region (ISR analysis). The complete genome of one bvGA strain (BR_RS12) was also compared to other S. Gallinarum complete genomes (including other two Brazilian ones: bvGA 287/91 and bvPU FCVA198). PCR detected all thirteen isolates as S. Gallinarum (eight bvGA and five bvPU), none positive for SG9R strain. ISR analysis revealed that all eight bvGA isolates showed exactly the same nucleotide sequences with 100% similarity to reference strains, while two patterns were observed for bvPU. Genome phylogeny demonstrated distinct clades for bvGA and bvPU, with the bvGA clade showing a clear subdivision including three genomes: SG9R vaccine, the respective SG9 parent strain and one SG9R revertant field isolate (MB4523). The evolutionary rate of the total S. Gallinarum genome was calculated at 6.15×10-7 substitutions/site/year, with 2.8 observed substitutions per year per genome (1 SNP per 4292 bases). Phylodynamics analysis estimated that at least two introductions of S. Gallinarum bvGA happened in Brazil, the first in 1885 and the second in 1950. The Brazilian bvGA genomes 287/91 and BR_RS12 analyzed here were related to the early and the late introductions, respectively. In conclusion, these results indicate the occurrence of S. Gallinarum strains associated with FT outbreaks that have been circulating for more than 50 years in Brazil and are not originated from virulence reversion of the SG9R vaccine.

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