• Bacterial diversity in Buruli ulcer skin lesions: Challenges in the clinical microbiome analysis of a skin disease

      Van Leuvenhaege, C.; Vandelannoote, K.; Affolabi, D.; Portaels, F.; Sopoh, G.; de Jong, B.C.; Eddyani, M.; Meehan, Conor J. (2017-07-27)
      Background Buruli ulcer (BU) is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans and considered the third most prevalent mycobacterial disease in humans. Secondary bacterial infections in open BU lesions are the main cause of pain, delayed healing and systemic illness, resulting in prolonged hospital stay. Thus, understanding the diversity of bacteria, termed the microbiome, in these open lesions is important for proper treatment. However, adequately studying the human microbiome in a clinical setting can prove difficult when investigating a neglected tropical skin disease due to its rarity and the setting. Methodology/Principal findings Using 16S rRNA sequencing, we determined the microbial composition of 5 BU lesions, 3 non-BU lesions and 3 healthy skin samples. Although no significant differences in diversity were found between BU and non-BU lesions, the former were characterized by an increase of Bacteroidetes compared to the non-BU wounds and the BU lesions also contained significantly more obligate anaerobes. With this molecular-based study, we were also able to detect bacteria that were missed by culture-based methods in previous BU studies. Conclusions/Significance Our study suggests that BU may lead to changes in the skin bacterial community within the lesions. However, in order to determine if such changes hold true across all BU cases and are either a cause or consequence of a specific wound environment, further microbiome studies are necessary. Such skin microbiome analysis requires large sample sizes and lesions from the same body site in many patients, both of which can be difficult for a rare disease. Our study proposes a pipeline for such studies and highlights several drawbacks that must be considered if microbiome analysis is to be utilized for neglected tropical diseases.
    • Comparative Genomics Shows That Mycobacterium ulcerans Migration and Expansion Preceded the Rise of Buruli Ulcer in Southeastern Australia.

      Buultjens, A.H.; Vandelannoote, K.; Meehan, Conor J.; Eddyani, M.; de Jong, B.C.; Fyfe, J.A.M.; Globan, M.; Tobias, N.J.; Porter, J.L.; Tomita, T.; et al. (2018-04-01)
      Since 2000, cases of the neglected tropical disease Buruli ulcer, caused by infection with Mycobacterium ulcerans, have increased 100-fold around Melbourne (population 4.4 million), the capital of Victoria, in temperate southeastern Australia. The reasons for this increase are unclear. Here, we used whole-genome sequence comparisons of 178 M. ulcerans isolates obtained primarily from human clinical specimens, spanning 70 years, to model the population dynamics of this pathogen from this region. Using phylogeographic and advanced Bayesian phylogenetic approaches, we found that there has been a migration of the pathogen from the east end of the state, beginning in the 1980s, 300 km west to the major human population center around Melbourne. This move was then followed by a significant increase in M. ulcerans population size. These analyses inform our thinking around Buruli ulcer transmission and control, indicating that M. ulcerans is introduced to a new environment and then expands, rather than it being from the awakening of a quiescent pathogen reservoir.
    • A Genomic Approach to Resolving Relapse versus Reinfection among Four Cases of Buruli Ulcer

      Eddyani, M.; Vandelannoote, K.; Meehan, Conor J.; Bhuju, S.; Porter, J.L.; Aguiar, J.; Seemann, T.; Jarek, M.; Singh, M.; Portaels, F.; et al. (2015-11-30)
      Background. Increased availability of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques allows, for the first time, to distinguish relapses from reinfections in patients with multiple Buruli ulcer (BU) episodes. Methodology. We compared the number and location of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified by genomic screening between four pairs of Mycobacterium ulcerans isolates collected at the time of first diagnosis and at recurrence, derived from a collection of almost 5000 well characterized clinical samples from one BU treatment center in Benin. Principal Findings. The findings suggest that after surgical treatment—without antibiotics—the second episodes were due to relapse rather than reinfection. Since specific antibiotics were introduced for the treatment of BU, the one patient with a culture available from both disease episodes had M. ulcerans isolates with a genomic distance of 20 SNPs, suggesting the patient was most likely reinfected rather than having a relapse. Conclusions. To our knowledge, this study is the first to study recurrences in M. ulcerans using NGS, and to identify exogenous reinfection as causing a recurrence of BU. The occurrence of reinfection highlights the contribution of ongoing exposure to M. ulcerans to disease recurrence, and has implications for vaccine development.
    • Multiple Introductions and Recent Spread of the Emerging Human Pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans across Africa

      Vandelannoote, K.; Meehan, Conor J.; Eddyani, M.; Affolabi, D.; Phanzu, D.M.; Eyangoh, S.; Jordaens, K.; Portaels, F.; Mangas, K.; Seemann, T.; et al. (2017-03)
      Buruli ulcer (BU) is an insidious neglected tropical disease. Cases are reported around the world but the rural regions of West and Central Africa are most affected. How BU is transmitted and spreads has remained a mystery, even though the causative agent, Mycobacterium ulcerans, has been known for more than 70 years. Here, using the tools of population genomics, we reconstruct the evolutionaryhistoryofM. ulceransbycomparing165isolatesspanning48yearsandrepresenting11endemiccountriesacrossAfrica. The genetic diversity of African M. ulcerans was found to be restricted due to the bacterium’s slow substitution rate coupled with its relatively recent origin. We identified two specific M. ulcerans lineages within the African continent, and inferred that M. ulcerans lineage Mu_A1 existed in Africa for several hundreds of years, unlike lineage Mu_A2, which was introduced much more recently, approximately during the 19th century. Additionally, we observed that specific M. ulcerans epidemic Mu_A1 clones were introduced during the same time period in the three hydrological basins that were well covered in our panel. The estimated time span of the introduction events coincides with the Neo-imperialism period, during which time the European colonial powers divided the African continent among themselves. Using this temporal association, and in the absence of a known BU reservoir or—vector on the continent, we postulate that the so-called "Scramble for Africa" played a significant role in the spread of the disease across the continent.
    • Mycobacterium ulcerans Population Genomics to Inform on the Spread of Buruli Ulcer across Central Africa

      Vandelannoote, K.; Phanzy, D.M.; Kibadi, K.; Eddyani, M.; Meehan, Conor J.; Jordaens, K.; Leirs, H.; Portaels, F.; Stinear, T.P.; Harris, S.R.; et al. (2019-02)
      Buruli ulcer is a neglected tropical disease of skin and subcutaneous tissue caused by infection with the pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans. Many critical issues for disease control, such as understanding the mode of transmission and identifying source reservoirs of M. ulcerans, are still largely unknown. Here, we used genomics to reconstruct in detail the evolutionary trajectory and dynamics of M. ulcerans populations at a central African scale and at smaller geographical village scales. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data were analyzed from 179 M. ulcerans strains isolated from all Buruli ulcer foci in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Republic of Congo, and Angola that have ever yielded positive M. ulcerans cultures. We used both temporal associations and the study of the mycobacterial demographic history to estimate the contribution of humans as a reservoir in Buruli ulcer transmission. Our phylogeographic analysis revealed one almost exclusively predominant sublineage of M. ulcerans that arose in Central Africa and proliferated in its different regions of endemicity during the Age of Discovery. We observed how the best sampled endemic hot spot, the Songololo territory, became an area of endemicity while the region was being colonized by Belgium (1880s). We furthermore identified temporal parallels between the observed past population fluxes of M. ulcerans from the Songololo territory and the timing of health policy changes toward control of the Buruli ulcer epidemic in that region. These findings suggest that an intervention based on detecting and treating human cases in an area of endemicity might be sufficient to break disease transmission chains, irrespective of other reservoirs of the bacterium.