Shared genome analyses of notable listeriosis outbreaks, highlighting the critical importance of epidemiological evidence, input datasets and interpretation criteria

Aleisha Reimer, Kelly Weedmark, Aaron Petkau, Christy-Lynn Peterson, Matthew Walker, Natalie Knox, Heather Kent, Philip Mabon, Chrystal Berry, Shaun Tyler, Lorelee Tschetter, Morganne Jerome, Vanessa Allen, Linda Hoang, Sadjia Bekal, Clifford Clark, Celine Nadon, Gary Van Domselaar, Franco Pagotto, Morag GrahamJeff Farber, Matthew Gilmour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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The persuasiveness of genomic evidence has pressured scientific agencies to supplement or replace well-established methodologies to inform public health and food safety decision-making. This study of 52 epidemiologically defined Listeria monocytogenes isolates, collected between 1981 and 2011, including nine outbreaks, was undertaken (1) to characterize their phylogenetic relationship at finished genome-level resolution, (2) to elucidate the underlying genetic diversity within an endemic subtype, CC8, and (3) to re-evaluate the genetic relationship and epidemiology of a CC8-delimited outbreak in Canada in 2008. Genomes representing Canadian Listeria outbreaks between 1981 and 2010 were closed and manually annotated. Single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and horizontally acquired traits were used to generate phylogenomic models. Phylogenomic relationships were congruent with classical subtyping and epidemiology, except for CC8 outbreaks, wherein the distribution of SNV and prophages revealed multiple co-evolving lineages. Chronophyletic reconstruction of CC8 evolution indicates that prophage-related genetic changes among CC8 strains manifest as PFGE subtype reversions, obscuring the relationship between CC8 isolates, and complicating the public health interpretation of subtyping data, even at maximum genome resolution. The size of the shared genome interrogated did not change the genetic relationship measured between highly related isolates near the tips of the phylogenetic tree, illustrating the robustness of these approaches for routine public health applications where the focus is recent ancestry. The possibility exists for temporally and epidemiologically distinct events to appear related even at maximum genome resolution, highlighting the continued importance of epidemiological evidence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Issue number1
Early online date16 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Canada
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Listeria monocytogenes/genetics
  • Listeriosis/epidemiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Prophages/genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA

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