• Capacity building for whole genome sequencing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and bioinformatics in high TB burden countries.

      Rivière, E.; Heupink, T.H.; Ismail, N.; Dippenaar, A.; Clarke, C.; Abebe, G.; Heusden van, P.; Warren, R.; Meehan, Conor J.; Van Rie, A. (2020-07)
      Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is increasingly used for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) research. Countries with the highest tuberculosis (TB) burden face important challenges to integrate WGS into surveillance and research. We assessed the global status of Mtb WGS and developed a 3-week training course coupled with long-term mentoring and WGS infrastructure building. Training focused on genome sequencing, bioinformatics and development of a locally relevant WGS research project. The aim of the long-term mentoring was to support trainees in project implementation and funding acquisition. The focus of WGS infrastructure building was on the DNA extraction process and bioinformatics. Compared to their TB burden, Asia and Africa are grossly underrepresented in Mtb WGS research. Challenges faced resulted in adaptations to the training, mentoring and infrastructure building. Out-of-date laptop hardware and operating systems were overcome by using online tools and a Galaxy WGS analysis pipeline. A case studies approach created a safe atmosphere for students to formulate and defend opinions. Because quality DNA extraction is paramount for WGS, a biosafety level 3 and general laboratory skill training session were added, use of commercial DNA extraction kits was introduced and a 2-week training in a highly equipped laboratory was combined with a 1-week training in the local setting. By developing and sharing the components of and experiences with a sequencing and bioinformatics training program, we hope to stimulate capacity building programs for Mtb WGS and empower high-burden countries to play an important role in WGS-based TB surveillance and research.
    • Characterization of Genomic Variants Associated with Resistance to Bedaquiline and Delamanid in Naive Mycobacterium tuberculosis Clinical Strains

      Battaglia, S.; Spitaleri, A.; Cabibbe, A.M.; Meehan, Conor J.; Utpatel, C.; Ismail, N.; Tahseen, S.; Skrahina, A.; Alikhanova, N.; Mostofa Kamal, S.M.; et al. (2020-10)
      The role of mutations in genes associated with phenotypic resistance to bedaquiline (BDQ) and delamanid (DLM) in Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBc) strains is poorly characterized. A clear understanding of the genetic variants' role is crucial to guide the development of molecular-based drug susceptibility testing (DST). In this work, we analyzed all mutations in candidate genomic regions associated with BDQ- and DLM-resistant phenotypes using a whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data set from a collection of 4,795 MTBc clinical isolates from six countries with a high burden of tuberculosis (TB). From WGS analysis, we identified 61 and 163 unique mutations in genomic regions potentially involved in BDQ- and DLM-resistant phenotypes, respectively. Importantly, all strains were isolated from patients who likely have never been exposed to these medicines. To characterize the role of mutations, we calculated the free energy variation upon mutations in the available protein structures of Ddn (DLM), Fgd1 (DLM), and Rv0678 (BDQ) and performed MIC assays on a subset of MTBc strains carrying mutations to assess their phenotypic effect. The combination of structural and phenotypic data allowed for cataloguing the mutations clearly associated with resistance to BDQ (n = 4) and DLM (n = 35), only two of which were previously described, as well as about a hundred genetic variants without any correlation with resistance. Significantly, these results show that both BDQ and DLM resistance-related mutations are diverse and distributed across the entire region of each gene target, which is of critical importance for the development of comprehensive molecular diagnostic tools.