Prospective whole-genome sequencing enhances national surveillance of listeria monocytogenes

Jason C. Kwong, Karolina Mercoulia, Takehiro Tomita, Marion Easton, Hua Y Li, Dieter M. Bulach, Timothy P. Stinear, Torsten Seemann, Benjamin P. Howden

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117 Citations (Scopus)


Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) has emerged as a powerful tool for comparing bacterial isolates in outbreak detection and investigation. Here we demonstrate that WGS performed prospectively for national epidemiologic surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to be superior to our current approaches using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST), multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA), binary typing, and serotyping. Initially 423 L. monocytogenes isolates underwent WGS, and comparisons uncovered a diverse genetic population structure derived from three distinct lineages. MLST, binary typing, and serotyping results inferred in silico from the WGS data were highly concordant (>99%) with laboratory typing performed in parallel. However, WGS was able to identify distinct nested clusters within groups of isolates that were otherwise indistinguishable using our current typing methods. Routine WGS was then used for prospective epidemiologic surveillance on a further 97 L. monocytogenes isolates over a 12-month period, which provided a greater level of discrimination than that of conventional typing for inferring linkage to point source outbreaks. A risk-based alert system based on WGS similarity was used to inform epidemiologists required to act on the data. Our experience shows that WGS can be adopted for prospective L. monocytogenes surveillance and investigated for other pathogens relevant to public health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-342
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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