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Pneumococcal within-host diversity during colonisation, transmission and treatment

By Gerry Tonkin-Hill, Clare Ling, Chrispin Chaguza, Susannah J Salter, Pattaraporn Hinfonthong, Elissavet Nikolaou, Natalie Tate, Andrzej Pastusiak, Claudia Turner, Claire Chewapreecha, Simon D.W. Frost, Jukka Corander, Nicholas J Croucher, Paul Turner, Stephen D Bentley

Posted 21 Feb 2022
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.02.20.480002

Characterising the genetic diversity of pathogens within the host promises to greatly improve surveillance and reconstruction of transmission chains. For bacteria, it also informs our understanding of inter-strain competition, and how this shapes the distribution of resistant and sensitive bacteria. Here we study the genetic diversity of Streptococcus pneumoniae within individual infants and their mothers by deep sequencing whole pneumococcal populations from longitudinal nasopharyngeal samples. We demonstrate deep sequencing has unsurpassed sensitivity for detecting multiple colonisation, doubling the rate at which highly invasive serotype 1 bacteria were detected in carriage compared to gold-standard methods. The greater resolution identified an elevated rate of transmission from mothers to their children in the first year of the child's life. Comprehensive treatment data demonstrated infants were at an elevated risk of both the acquisition, and persistent colonisation, of a multidrug resistant bacterium following antimicrobial treatment. Some alleles were enriched after antimicrobial treatment, suggesting they aided persistence, but generally purifying selection dominated within-host evolution. Rates of co-colonisation imply that in the absence of treatment, susceptible lineages outcompeted resistant lineages within the host. These results demonstrate the many benefits of deep sequencing for the genomic surveillance of bacterial pathogens.

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