Phylogenetic diversity, antimicrobial susceptibility and virulence gene profiles of Brachyspira hyodysenteriae isolates from pigs in Germany
Swine dysentery (SD) is an economically important diarrheal disease in pigs caused by different strongly hemolytic Brachyspira (B.) species, such as B. hyodysenteriae, B. suanatina and B. hampsonii. Possible associations of epidemiologic data, such as multilocus sequence types (STs) to virulence gene profiles and antimicrobial susceptibility are rather scarce, particularly for B. hyodysenteriae isolates from Germany. In this study, B. hyodysenteriae (n = 116) isolated from diarrheic pigs between 1990 and 2016 in Germany were investigated for their STs, susceptibility to the major drugs used for treatment of SD (tiamulin and valnemulin) and genes that were previously linked with virulence and encode for hemolysins (tlyA, tlyB, tlyC, hlyA, BHWA1_RS02885, BHWA1_RS09085, BHWA1_RS04705, and BHWA1_RS02195), outer membrane proteins (OMPs) (bhlp16, bhlp17.6, bhlp29.7, bhmp39f, and bhmp39h) as well as iron acquisition factors (ftnA and bitC). Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) revealed that 79.4% of the isolates belonged to only three STs, namely ST52 (41.4%), ST8 (12.1%), and ST112 (25.9%) which have been observed in other European countries before. Another 24 isolates belonged to twelve new STs (ST113-118, ST120-123, ST131, and ST193). The temporal distribution of STs revealed the presence of new STs as well as the regular presence of ST52 over three decades (1990s–2000s). The proportion of strains that showed resistance to both tiamulin und valnemulin (39.1%) varied considerably among the most frequent STs ranging from 0% (0/14 isolates resistant) in ST8 isolates to 46.7% (14/30), 52.1% (25/48), and 85.7% (6/7) in isolates belonging to ST112, ST52, and ST114, respectively. All hemolysin genes as well as the iron-related gene ftnA and the OMP gene bhlp29.7 were regularly present in the isolates, while the OMP genes bhlp17.6 and bhmp39h could not be detected. Sequence analysis of hemolysin genes of selected isolates revealed co-evolution of tlyB, BHWA1_RS02885, BHWA1_RS09085, and BHWA1_RS02195 with the core genome and suggested independent evolution of tlyA, tlyC, and hlyA. Our data indicate that in Germany, swine dysentery might be caused by a limited number of B. hyodysenteriae clonal groups. Major STs (ST8, ST52, and ST112) are shared with other countries in Europe suggesting a possible role of the European intra-Community trade of pigs in the dissemination of certain clones. The identification of several novel STs, some of which are single or double locus variants of ST52, may on the other hand hint towards an ongoing diversification of the pathogen in the studied area. The linkage of pleuromutilin susceptibility and sequence type of an isolate might reflect a clonal expansion of the underlying resistance mechanism, namely mutations in the ribosomal RNA genes. A linkage between single virulence-associated genes (VAGs) or even VAG patterns and the phylogenetic background of the isolates could not be established, since almost all VAGs were regularly present in the isolates.