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Open Access Research article

Epidemiological association of Campylobacter jejuni groups with pathogenicity-associated genetic markers

Andreas E Zautner*, Carolin Ohk, Abdul Malik Tareen, Raimond Lugert and Uwe Groß

Author Affiliations

Universitätsmedizin Göttingen, Abteilung für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Kreuzbergring 57, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:171  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-171

Published: 8 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Campylobacter jejuni, the most leading cause for bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, shows a high genetic diversity among its isolates. Recently, we demonstrated the existence of six C. jejuni-groups by combining MLST with six genetic markers. These groups were further characterized by the detection of cj1321-cj1326, fucP, cj0178, cj0755/cfrA, ceuE, pldA, cstII, and cstIII in order (I.) to show further associations between these different genetic markers and MLST CCs. Moreover, different studies were able to associate several of these markers: a sialylated lipoologosaccharide (cstII/III+), the gamma-glytamyl-transpeptidase (ggt+), and the absence of a certain allele of the enterochelin-uptake-binding-protein (ceuE11168-) with severe campylobacteriosis, bloody diarrhea and unpleasant outcome. Additionally more than half of human Campylobacter-isolates were assigned to a non-livestock clade associated with the absence of cj1321-cj1326. These isolates were considered as mere colonizers.

From the combination of marker genes, the ratio of human isolates in a specific group, and clinical data (II.) it should be demonstrated to which of the previous defined groups these Campylobacter-subpopulations, associated with higher virulence, correspond.

Results

Besides the marker gene pldA, all new estimated genetic markers show significant differences in their distribution among the various MLST-based groups. Especially the genes for cj1321-cj1326, fucP, cj0178, cj0755/cfrA are widely associated with each other and split the study population into two major and seven intermediate groups substantiating the previous group-definition, whereas cstII and cstIII indicate at least three groups following an independent distribution pattern.

Conclusions

Based on these data a group of C. jejuni-isolates characterized by the presence of ansB, dmsA, ggt, and the absence of cj1365c, cj1585c, cj1321-cj1326, fucP, cj0178, cj0755/cfrA, and cstII/III was associated with a higher prevalence in human campylobacteriosis, bloody diarrhea as well as hospitalization and bears obviously a higher virulence for humans. In contrast to that better livestock-adapted groups characterized by the ability to utilize L-fucose and the presence of all of the five identified putative C. jejuni iron-uptake systems as well as cj1321-cj1326, cj1365c, cj1585c, and cstII and/or cstIII (sialylated lipoologosaccharide) is more prevalent in animal hosts and was secondary associated with less severe campylobacteriosis.

Keywords:
Campylobacter jejuni; Subgroups; fucP; cj0178; cj0755/cfrA; LOS class; Flagellin glycosylation; Virulence