Comparative genomics of Campylobacter jejuni from clinical campylobacteriosis stool specimens

Bilal Djeghout, Samuel J. Bloomfield, Steven Rudder, Ngozi Elumogo, Alison E. Mather, John Wain, Nicol Janecko

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Background: Campylobacter jejuni is a pervasive pathogen of major public health concern with a complex ecology requiring accurate and informative approaches to define pathogen diversity during outbreak investigations. Source attribution analysis may be confounded if the genetic diversity of a C. jejuni population is not adequately captured in a single specimen. The aim of this study was to determine the genomic diversity of C. jejuni within individual stool specimens from four campylobacteriosis patients. Direct plating and pre-culture filtration of one stool specimen per patient was used to culture multiple isolates per stool specimen. Whole genome sequencing and pangenome level analysis were used to investigate genomic diversity of C. jejuni within a patient.

Results: A total 92 C. jejuni isolates were recovered from four patients presenting with gastroenteritis. The number of isolates ranged from 13 to 30 per patient stool. Three patients yielded a single C. jejuni multilocus sequence type: ST-21 (n = 26, patient 4), ST-61 (n = 30, patient 1) and ST-2066 (n = 23, patient 2). Patient 3 was infected with two different sequence types [ST-51 (n = 12) and ST-354 (n = 1)]. Isolates belonging to the same sequence type from the same patient specimen shared 12–43 core non-recombinant SNPs and 0–20 frameshifts with each other, and the pangenomes of each sequence type consisted of 1406–1491 core genes and 231–264 accessory genes. However, neither the mutation nor the accessory genes were connected to a specific functional gene category.

Conclusions: Our findings show that the C. jejuni population recovered from an individual patient’s stool are genetically diverse even within the same ST and may have shared common ancestors before specimens were obtained. The population is unlikely to have evolved from a single isolate at the time point of initial patient infection, leading us to conclude that patients were likely infected with a heterogeneous C. jejuni population. The diversity of the C. jejuni population found within individual stool specimens can inform future methodological approaches to attribution and outbreak investigations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalGut Pathogens
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022


  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Genomic diversity
  • Pangenomics

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