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Metagenomic sequencing of clinical samples reveals a single widespread clone of Lawsonia intracellularis responsible for porcine proliferative enteropathy.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Early online date2 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Apr 2020


Lawsonia intracellularis is a Gram-negative obligate intracellular bacterium that is the aetiological agent of proliferative enteropathy (PE), a common intestinal disease of major economic importance in pigs and other animal species. To date, progress in understanding the biology of L. intracellularis towards improved disease control has been hampered by the inability to culture the organism in vitro. In particular, our understanding of the genomic diversity and population structure of clinical L. intercellularis is very limited. Here, we utilized a metagenomic shotgun approach to directly sequence and assemble 26 L. intracellularis genomes from faecal and ileum samples of infected pigs and horses across three continents. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a genetically monomorphic clonal lineage responsible for infections in pigs, with distinct subtypes associated with infections in horses. The genome was highly conserved with 94% of genes shared by all isolates and a very small accessory genome made up of only 84 genes across all sequenced strains. In part, the accessory genome was represented by regions with a high-density of SNPs, indicative of recombination events importing novel gene alleles. In summary, our analysis provides the first view of the population structure for L. intracellularis, revealing a single major lineage associated with disease of pigs. The limited diversity and broad geographic distribution suggest the recent emergence and clonal expansion of an important livestock pathogen.

    Research areas

  • Lawsonia intracellularis, proliferative enteropathy, metagenomic, phylogeny, monomorphic clonal lineage

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