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Strain population structure varies widely across bacterial species and predicts strain colonization in unrelated individuals

By Jeremiah J Faith, Alice Chen Liaw, Varun Aggarwala, Nadeem O Kaakoush, Thomas Borody, Hazel Mitchell, Michael A Kamm, Sudarshan Paramsothy, Evan S Snitkin, Ilaria Mogno

Posted 17 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.17.343640

The population structure of strains within a bacterial species is poorly defined, despite the functional importance of strain variation in the human gut microbiota on health. Here we analyzed >1000 sequenced bacterial strains from the fecal microbiota of 47 individuals from two countries and combined them with >150,000 bacterial genomes from NCBI to quantify the strain population size of different bacterial species, as well as the frequency of finding the same strain colonized in unrelated individuals who had no opportunities for direct microbial strain transmission. Strain population sizes ranged from tens to over one-hundred thousand per species. Prevalent strains in common gut microbiota species with small population sizes were the most likely to be harbored in two or more unrelated individuals. The finite strain population size of certain species creates the opportunity to comprehensively sequence the entirety of these species prevalent strains and associate their presence in different individuals with health outcomes. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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