Yersinia enterocolitica

YeMT1 dendogram fragment
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Yersinia enterocolitica, like several of its better known relatives in family Enterobacteriaciae, is an agent of foodborne disease. Infection, most commonly in children, is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea which is often bloody.  In some individuals, intestinal infection is followed several weeks later by reactive arthritis (joint pain) and erythema nodosum (rash) which can persist for 6 months post infection. Fortunately, Y. enterocolitica infections are relatively uncommon, on the order of 1000 cases per year in the U.S.

Although various farm animals and pets are potential sources of infection, the pig is the most important reservoir and hence undercooked pork the most likely culprit. Indeed, a recent Consumer Reports study identified Y. enterocolitica in 69% of pork samples, understandably arousing considerable concern (1). The primary limitation of this study is that there was no attempt to distinquish pathogenic from non-pathogenic strains.

Additionally, several outbreaks of Y. entercolitica infection have been associated with pasteurized milk. In the most recent, Y. enterocolitica was isolated from two products from the implicated dairy, and typing by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) suggested identity to stool isolates from nine patients (2).  Subsequent sampling of the dairy’s milk and environment did not detect Y. entercolitica, however, and in light of a recent report, PFGE may not have provided the resolution needed for Y. enterolitica outbreak investigation (3).

Y. enterocolitica strains are conventionally grouped by biotype (4), which largely correlate with virulence: biotype 1B strains tend to be highly pathogenic, biotypes 2 through 6 moderately pathogenic, and biotype 1A least or non-pathogenic.  Additionally, Y. enterocolitica strains are conventionally grouped by O antigen serotype, the most commonly isolated being O:3, O:5, O:5,27, O:8, and O:9.

While biotyping and serotyping are informative, they are costly in terms of time, reagents, and expertise, and furthermore do not provide sufficient resolution for epidemiological purposes. Consequently, various Y. enterocolitica genotyping systems have been developed and evaluated. As noted above, PFGE has limited resolution. Most promising is MLVA (multilocus variable number of tandem repeat analysis), analyzing PCR fragment length variation in 6 or 7 polymorphic tandem repeat loci (5,6,7).

For two of these well validated loci, sequence analysis provides enhanced strain resolution compared to length analysis alone, since the flanking sequences include additional polymorphisms and the repeats themselves may vary. Exploiting this observation, MicrobiType offers the polymorphic locus sequence typing services YeMT1 and YeMT2.  These two loci are distinct; nevertheless, both PLST services comparably cluster biotype 1A, 1B, 3, and 4 strains as illustrated in the YeMT1-YeMT2 dendrograms generated from all available GenBank sequences. Importantly, within these clusters many strains are resolved.

Results are reported in dendrogram and sequence alignment formats, illustrating the relatedness of the submitted isolate to concurrently or previously submitted isolates from your lab, and to representative GenBank database strains.

(1) www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/12/should-consumers-be-concerned-about-yersinia/
(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). MMWR 60:1428.
(3) Gilpin BJ et al. (2013). Zoonoses Public Health doi: 10.1111/zph.12085.
(4) Wauters G et al. (1987). Contrib. Microbiol. Immunol. 9:14–21.
(5) Gierczynski R et al. (2007). J. Clin. Microbiol. 45:2508.
(6) Gulati P (2009). J. Appl. Microbiol. 107:875.
(7) Wang X et al. (2012). PLoS 7:e37309.

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