Many listeriosis outbreaks are caused by a few globally distributed clonal groups, designated clonal complexes or epidemic clones, of Listeria monocytogenes, several of which have been defined by classic multilocus sequence typing (MLST) schemes targeting 6 to 8 housekeeping or virulence genes. We have developed and evaluated core genome MLST (cgMLST) schemes and applied them to isolates from multiple clonal groups, including those associated with 39 listeriosis outbreaks. The cgMLST clusters were congruent with MLST-defined clonal groups, which had various degrees of diversity at the whole-genome level. Notably, cgMLST could distinguish among outbreak strains and epidemiologically unrelated strains of the same clonal group, which could not be achieved using classic MLST schemes. The precise selection of cgMLST gene targets may not be critical for the general identification of clonal groups and outbreak strains. cgMLST analyses further identified outbreak strains, including those associated with recent outbreaks linked to contaminated French-style cheese, Hispanic-style cheese, stone fruit, caramel apple, ice cream, and packaged leafy green salad, as belonging to major clonal groups. We further developed lineage-specific cgMLST schemes, which can include accessory genes when core genomes do not possess sufficient diversity, and this provided additional resolution over species-specific cgMLST. Analyses of isolates from different common-source listeriosis outbreaks revealed various degrees of diversity, indicating that the numbers of allelic differences should always be combined with cgMLST clustering and epidemiological evidence to define a listeriosis outbreak.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology