Pan-genome analysis of ancient and modern Salmonella enterica demonstrates genomic stability of the invasive para C lineage for millennia

Zhemin Zhou, Inge Lundstrøm, Alicia Tran-Dien, Sebastián Duchêne, Nabil Fareed Alikhan, Martin J. Sergeant, Gemma Langridge, Anna K. Fotakis, Satheesh Nair, Hans K. Stenøien, Stian S. Hamre, Sherwood Casjens, Axel Christophersen, Christopher Quince, Nicholas R. Thomson, François Xavier Weill, Simon Y.W. Ho, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Mark Achtman

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48 Citations (Scopus)


Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi C causes enteric (paratyphoid) fever in humans. Its presentation can range from asymptomatic infections of the blood stream to gastrointestinal or urinary tract infection or even a fatal septicemia [1]. Paratyphi C is very rare in Europe and North America except for occasional travelers from South and East Asia or Africa, where the disease is more common [2, 3]. However, early 20 th -century observations in Eastern Europe [3, 4] suggest that Paratyphi C enteric fever may once have had a wide-ranging impact on human societies. Here, we describe a draft Paratyphi C genome (Ragna) recovered from the 800-year-old skeleton (SK152) of a young woman in Trondheim, Norway. Paratyphi C sequences were recovered from her teeth and bones, suggesting that she died of enteric fever and demonstrating that these bacteria have long caused invasive salmonellosis in Europeans. Comparative analyses against modern Salmonella genome sequences revealed that Paratyphi C is a clade within the Para C lineage, which also includes serovars Choleraesuis, Typhisuis, and Lomita. Although Paratyphi C only infects humans, Choleraesuis causes septicemia in pigs and boar [5] (and occasionally humans), and Typhisuis causes epidemic swine salmonellosis (chronic paratyphoid) in domestic pigs [2, 3]. These different host specificities likely evolved in Europe over the last ∼4,000 years since the time of their most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) and are possibly associated with the differential acquisitions of two genomic islands, SPI-6 and SPI-7. The tMRCAs of these bacterial clades coincide with the timing of pig domestication in Europe [6]. Zhou et al. reshape our understandings of the origins of an invasive bacterial pathogen, Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C, by combining a reconstructed pan-genome from an 800-year-old skeleton in Norway with 221 genomes from modern bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2420-2428.e10
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2018


  • Ancient DNA
  • enteric fever
  • genomic stability
  • historical infections
  • host jump
  • pan-genome
  • paratyphoid fever
  • population genomics
  • Salmonella enterica
  • tMRCA of bacterial pathogens

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