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Genome-wide identification of lineage and locus specific variation associated with pneumococcal carriage duration

By John Lees, Nicholas J Croucher, Goldblatt David, Nosten Francois, Parkhill Julian, Turner Claudia, Turner Paul, D. Bentley Stephen

Posted 08 Feb 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/107086 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.26255)

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading cause of invasive disease in infants, especially in low-income settings. Asymptomatic carriage in the nasopharynx is a prerequisite for disease, and the duration of carriage is an important consideration in modelling transmission dynamics and vaccine response. Existing studies of carriage duration variability are based at the serotype level only, and do not probe variation within lineages or fully quantify interactions with other environmental factors. Here we developed a model to calculate the duration of carriage episodes from longitudinal swab data. By combining these results with whole genome sequence data we estimate that pneumococcal genomic variation accounted for 63% of the phenotype variation, whereas host traits accounted for less than 5%. We further partitioned this heritability into both lineage and locus effects, and quantified the amount attributable to the largest sources of variation in carriage duration: serotype (17%), drug-resistance (9%) and other significant locus effects (7%). For the locus effects, a genome-wide association study identified 16 loci which may have an effect on carriage duration independent of serotype. Hits at a genome-wide level of significance were to prophage sequences, suggesting infection by such viruses substantially affects carriage duration. These results show that both serotype and non-serotype specific effects alter carriage duration in infants and young children and are more important than other environmental factors such as host genetics. This has implications for models of pneumococcal competition and antibiotic resistance, and leads the way for the analysis of heritability of complex bacterial traits.

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