Listing of Research outputs
Research output: SCORING: Contribution to journal › SCORING: Journal articles › Research › peer-review
OBJECTIVES: Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis (VRE) are a common cause of healthcare-associated infections. Whole genome sequencing-based typing methods yield the highest discriminatory power for outbreak surveillance in the hospital. We analysed the clonal composition of enteric VRE populations of at-risk patients over several weeks to characterise VRE population diversity and dynamics.
METHODS: Five bone marrow transplant recipients (three colonised with vanA-positive isolates, two colonised with vanB-positive isolates) contributed three rectal swabs over a course of several weeks. Fourteen VRE colonies per swab were analysed by core genome multi locus sequence typing (cgMLST) and typing of the van-element.
RESULTS: VRE populations were clonally diverse in three of five patients, and population composition changed dynamically over the time of observation. Besides new acquisition of VRE isolates, shared van-elements localised on nearly identical plasmids between clonally different isolates indicate horizontal gene transfer as a mechanism behind VRE population diversity within single patients.
CONCLUSION: Outbreak detection relies on typing of isolates, usually by analysing one isolate per patient. We here show that this approach is insufficient for outbreak surveillance of VRE in highly vulnerable patients, as it does not take into account VRE population heterogeneity and horizontal gene transfer of the resistance element.
Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
Research output: SCORING: Contribution to journal › SCORING: Journal articles › Research › peer-review
Research output: SCORING: Contribution to journal › SCORING: Journal articles › Research › peer-review
Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) infection is a leading cause of severe respiratory tract infections. Effective, directly acting antivirals against hRSV are not available. We aimed to discover new and chemically diverse candidates to enrich the hRSV drug development pipeline. We used a two-step screen that interrogates compound efficacy after primary infection and a consecutive virus passaging. We resynthesized selected hit molecules and profiled their activities with hRSV lentiviral pseudotype cell entry, replicon, and time-of-addition assays. The breadth of antiviral activity was tested against recent RSV clinical strains and human coronavirus (hCoV-229E), and in pseudotype-based entry assays with non-RSV viruses. Screening 6,048 molecules, we identified 23 primary candidates, of which 13 preferentially scored in the first and 10 in the second rounds of infection, respectively. Two of these molecules inhibited hRSV cell entry and selected for F protein resistance within the fusion peptide. One molecule inhibited transcription/replication in hRSV replicon assays, did not select for phenotypic hRSV resistance and was active against non-hRSV viruses, including hCoV-229E. One compound, identified in the second round of infection, did not measurably inhibit hRSV cell entry or replication/transcription. It selected for two coding mutations in the G protein and was highly active in differentiated BCi-NS1.1 lung cells. In conclusion, we identified four new hRSV inhibitor candidates with different modes of action. Our findings build an interesting platform for medicinal chemistry-guided derivatization approaches followed by deeper phenotypical characterization in vitro and in vivo with the aim of developing highly potent hRSV drugs.
Various pathogens systematically reprogram gene expression in macrophages, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. We investigated whether the enteropathogen Yersinia enterocolitica alters chromatin states to reprogram gene expression in primary human macrophages. Genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) seq analyses showed that pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) induced up- or down-regulation of histone modifications (HMod) at approximately 14500 loci in promoters and enhancers. Effectors of Y. enterocolitica reorganized about half of these dynamic HMod, with the effector YopP being responsible for about half of these modulatory activities. The reorganized HMod were associated with genes involved in immune response and metabolism. Remarkably, the altered HMod also associated with 61% of all 534 known Rho GTPase pathway genes, revealing a new level in Rho GTPase regulation and a new aspect of bacterial pathogenicity. Changes in HMod were associated to varying degrees with corresponding gene expression, e. g. depending on chromatin localization and cooperation of the HMod. In summary, infection with Y. enterocolitica remodels HMod in human macrophages to modulate key gene expression programs of the innate immune response.
S. epidermidis is a substantial component of the human skin microbiota, but also one of the major causes of nosocomial infection in the context of implanted medical devices. We here aimed to advance the understanding of S. epidermidis genotypes and phenotypes conducive to infection establishment. Furthermore, we investigate the adaptation of individual clonal lines to the infection lifestyle based on the detailed analysis of individual S. epidermidis populations of 23 patients suffering from prosthetic joint infection. Analysis of invasive and colonizing S. epidermidis provided evidence that invasive S. epidermidis are characterized by infection-supporting phenotypes (e.g. increased biofilm formation, growth in nutrient poor media and antibiotic resistance), as well as specific genetic traits. The discriminating gene loci were almost exclusively assigned to the mobilome. Here, in addition to IS256 and SCCmec, chromosomally integrated phages was identified for the first time. These phenotypic and genotypic features were more likely present in isolates belonging to sequence type (ST) 2. By comparing seven patient-matched nasal and invasive S. epidermidis isolates belonging to identical genetic lineages, infection-associated phenotypic and genotypic changes were documented. Besides increased biofilm production, the invasive isolates were characterized by better growth in nutrient-poor media and reduced hemolysis. By examining several colonies grown in parallel from each infection, evidence for genetic within-host population heterogeneity was obtained. Importantly, subpopulations carrying IS insertions in agrC, mutations in the acetate kinase (AckA) and deletions in the SCCmec element emerged in several infections. In summary, these results shed light on the multifactorial processes of infection adaptation and demonstrate how S. epidermidis is able to flexibly repurpose and edit factors important for colonization to facilitate survival in hostile infection environments.
INTRODUCTION: Metagenomic sequencing is increasingly being used in clinical settings for difficult to diagnose cases. The performance of viral metagenomic protocols relies to a large extent on the bioinformatic analysis. In this study, the European Society for Clinical Virology (ESCV) Network on NGS (ENNGS) initiated a benchmark of metagenomic pipelines currently used in clinical virological laboratories.
METHODS: Metagenomic datasets from 13 clinical samples from patients with encephalitis or viral respiratory infections characterized by PCR were selected. The datasets were analyzed with 13 different pipelines currently used in virological diagnostic laboratories of participating ENNGS members. The pipelines and classification tools were: Centrifuge, DAMIAN, DIAMOND, DNASTAR, FEVIR, Genome Detective, Jovian, MetaMIC, MetaMix, One Codex, RIEMS, VirMet, and Taxonomer. Performance, characteristics, clinical use, and user-friendliness of these pipelines were analyzed.
RESULTS: Overall, viral pathogens with high loads were detected by all the evaluated metagenomic pipelines. In contrast, lower abundance pathogens and mixed infections were only detected by 3/13 pipelines, namely DNASTAR, FEVIR, and MetaMix. Overall sensitivity ranged from 80% (10/13) to 100% (13/13 datasets). Overall positive predictive value ranged from 71-100%. The majority of the pipelines classified sequences based on nucleotide similarity (8/13), only a minority used amino acid similarity, and 6 of the 13 pipelines assembled sequences de novo. No clear differences in performance were detected that correlated with these classification approaches. Read counts of target viruses varied between the pipelines over a range of 2-3 log, indicating differences in limit of detection.
CONCLUSION: A wide variety of viral metagenomic pipelines is currently used in the participating clinical diagnostic laboratories. Detection of low abundant viral pathogens and mixed infections remains a challenge, implicating the need for standardization and validation of metagenomic analysis for clinical diagnostic use. Future studies should address the selective effects due to the choice of different reference viral databases.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.
Background: Hepatitis D Virus (HDV) is classified into eight genotypes with distinct clinical outcomes. Despite the maintenance of highly conserved functional motifs, it is unknown whether sequence divergence between genotypes, such as HDV-1 and HDV-3, or viral interference mechanisms may affect co-infection in the same host and cell, thus hindering the development of HDV inter-genotypic recombinants. We aimed to investigate virological differences of HDV-1 and HDV-3 and assessed their capacity to infect and replicate within the same liver and human hepatocyte in vivo.
Methods: Human liver chimeric mice were infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and with one of the two HDV genotypes or with HDV-1 and HDV-3 simultaneously. In a second set of experiments, HBV-infected mice were first infected with HDV-1 and after 9 weeks with HDV-3, or vice versa. Also two distinct HDV-1 strains were used to infect mice simultaneously and sequentially. Virological parameters were determined by strain-specific qRT-PCR, RNA in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence staining.
Results: HBV/HDV co-infection studies indicated faster spreading kinetics and higher intrahepatic levels of HDV-3 compared to HDV-1. In mice that simultaneously received both HDV strains, HDV-3 became the dominant genotype. Interestingly, antigenomic HDV-1 and HDV-3 RNA were detected within the same liver but hardly within the same cell. Surprisingly, sequential super-infection experiments revealed a clear dominance of the HDV strain that was inoculated first, indicating that HDV-infected cells may acquire resistance to super-infection.
Conclusion: Infection with two largely divergent HDV genotypes could be established in the same liver, but rarely within the same hepatocyte. Sequential super-infection with distinct HDV genotypes and even with two HDV-1 isolates was strongly impaired, suggesting that virus interference mechanisms hamper productive replication in the same cell and hence recombination events even in a system lacking adaptive immune responses.
Copyright © 2021 Giersch, Hermanussen, Volz, Volmari, Allweiss, Sureau, Casey, Huang, Fischer, Lütgehetmann and Dandri.
Iran was among countries which was hard hit at the early stage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and dealt with the second wave of the pandemic in May and June 2020; however, there are a very limited number of complete genome sequences of acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from Iran. In this study, complete genome sequences of the virus in the samples obtained from three patients in Alborz province in May and June 2020 were generated and analyzed using bioinformatic methods. The sequenced genomes were positioned in a cluster with B.4 lineage along with the sequences from other countries namely, United Arab Emirates and Oman. There were seven single nucleotide variations (SNVs) in common in all samples and only one of the sequenced genomes showed the D614G amino acid substitution. Three SNVs, 1397 G > A, 28688T > C, 29742 G > T, which had already been reported in February, were found with high frequency in all the sequenced genomes in this study, implying that viral diversity reflected in the early stages of viral transmission in Iran were established in the second wave. Considering the importance of molecular epidemiology in response to ongoing pandemic, there is an urgent need for more complete genome sequencing and comprehensive analyses to gain insight into the transmission, adaptation and evolution of the virus in Iran.
© 2021 The Authors.
Despite the advent of whole genome metagenomics, targeted approaches (such as 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing) continue to be valuable for determining the microbial composition of samples. Amplicon microbiome sequencing can be performed on clinical samples from a normally sterile site to determine the aetiology of an infection (usually single pathogen identification) or samples from more complex niches such as human mucosa or environmental samples where multiple microorganisms need to be identified. The methodologies are frequently applied to determine both presence of micro-organisms and their quantity or relative abundance. There are a number of technical steps required to perform microbial community profiling, many of which may have appreciable precision and bias that impacts final results. In order for these methods to be applied with the greatest accuracy, comparative studies across different laboratories are warranted. In this study we explored the impact of the bioinformatic approaches taken in different laboratories on microbiome assessment using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing results. Data were generated from two mock microbial community samples which were amplified using primer sets spanning five different variable regions of 16S rRNA genes. The PCR-sequencing analysis included three technical repeats of the process to determine the repeatability of their methods. Thirteen laboratories participated in the study, and each analysed the same FASTQ files using their choice of pipeline. This study captured the methods used and the resulting sequence annotation and relative abundance output from bioinformatic analyses. Results were compared to digital PCR assessment of the absolute abundance of each target representing each organism in the mock microbial community samples and also to analyses of shotgun metagenome sequence data. This ring trial demonstrates that the choice of bioinformatic analysis pipeline alone can result in different estimations of the composition of the microbiome when using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing data. The study observed differences in terms of both presence and abundance of organisms and provides a resource for ensuring reproducible pipeline development and application. The observed differences were especially prevalent when using custom databases and applying high stringency operational taxonomic unit (OTU) cut-off limits. In order to apply sequencing approaches with greater accuracy, the impact of different analytical steps needs to be clearly delineated and solutions devised to harmonise microbiome analysis results.
OBJECTIVES: Investigation whether in depth characterization of virus variant patterns can be used for epidemiological analysis of the first severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection clusters in Hamburg, Germany.
METHODS: Metagenomic RNA-sequencing and amplicon-sequencing and subsequent variant calling in 25 respiratory samples from SARS-CoV-2 infected patients involved in the earliest infection clusters in Hamburg.
RESULTS: Amplikon sequencing and cluster analyses of these SARS-CoV-2 sequences allowed the identification of the first infection cluster and five non-related infection clusters occurring at the beginning of the viral entry of SARS-CoV-2 in the Hamburg metropolitan region. Viral genomics together with epidemiological analyses revealed that the index patient acquired the infection in northern Italy and transmitted it to two out of 134 contacts. Single nucleotide polymorphisms clearly distinguished the virus variants of the index and other clusters and allowed us to track in which sequences worldwide these mutations were first described. Minor variant analyses identified the transmission of intra-host variants in the index cluster and household clusters.
CONCLUSIONS: SARS-CoV-2 variant tracing allows the identification of infection clusters and the follow up of infection chains occurring in the population. Furthermore, the follow up of minor viral variants in infection clusters can provide further resolution on transmission events indistinguishable at a consensus sequence level.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
During mammalian pregnancy, immune cells are vertically transferred from mother to fetus. The functional role of these maternal microchimeric cells (MMc) in the offspring is mostly unknown. Here we show a mouse model in which MMc numbers are either normal or low, which enables functional assessment of MMc. We report a functional role of MMc in promoting fetal immune development. MMc induces preferential differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells in fetal bone marrow towards monocytes within the myeloid compartment. Neonatal mice with higher numbers of MMc and monocytes show enhanced resilience against cytomegalovirus infection. Similarly, higher numbers of MMc in human cord blood are linked to a lower number of respiratory infections during the first year of life. Our data highlight the importance of MMc in promoting fetal immune development, potentially averting the threats caused by early life exposure to pathogens.
© 2021. The Author(s).
Here, we describe the complete genome sequence of a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strain isolated from an oropharyngeal swab sample from a female patient with COVID-19 who was infected in Hamburg, northern Germany.
Copyright © 2020 Pfefferle et al.
Experimental nephrotoxic serum nephritis (NTN) is a model for T-cell-mediated human rapid progressive glomerulonephritis. T-cell receptor stimulation involves intracellular signaling events that ultimately lead to the activation of transcription factors, such as NF-κB. We explored the involvement of the NF-κB components IKK-2 and NEMO in NTN, by using cell-specific knockouts of IKK-2 and NEMO in CD4+ T lymphocytes. Our results demonstrate that although the course of disease was not grossly altered in CD4xIKK2Δ and CD4xNEMOΔ animals, renal regulatory T cells were significantly reduced and T helper (Th)1 and Th17 cells significantly increased in both knockout mouse groups. The expression of the renal cytokines and chemokines IL-1β, CCL-2, and CCL-20 was also significantly altered in both knockout mice. Lymphocyte transcriptome analysis confirmed the increased expression of Th17-related cytokines in spleen CD4+ T cells. Moreover, our array data demonstrate an interrupted canonical NF-κB pathway and an increased expression of noncanonical NF-κB pathway-related genes in nephritic CD4xNEMOΔ mice, highlighting different downstream effects of deletion of IKK-2 or NEMO in T lymphocytes. We propose that better understanding of the role of IKK-2 and NEMO in nephritis is essential for the clinical application of kinase inhibitors in patients with glomerulonephritis.-Guo, L., Huang, J., Chen, M., Piotrowski, E., Song, N., Zahner, G., Paust, H.-J., Alawi, M., Geffers, R., Thaiss, F. T-lymphocyte-specific knockout of IKK-2 or NEMO induces Th17 cells in an experimental nephrotoxic nephritis mouse model.
Dysbiosis¸ i.e. changes in microbial composition at a mucosal interface, is implicated in the pathogenesis of many chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. To assess the composition of the microbial upper respiratory tract (URT) community in patients with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), we used culture-independent high-throughput methods. In this prospective clinical study, nasal swabs were collected from patients with GPA, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA, disease control), and healthy controls. Nasal bacterial taxa were assessed using V3-V4 region 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenza, and entero- and rhinoviruses were detected using qPCR. Unbiased metagenomic RNA sequencing (UMERS) was performed in a subset of samples to determine the relative abundance of bacterial, fungal, and viral species. A trend toward reduced microbiome diversity was detected in GPA samples compared with healthy controls. The abundance of bacterial taxa and microbial richness were significantly decreased in GPA samples compared with RA samples. The relative abundance of bacterial families shifted, with increased Planococcaceae and decreased Moraxellaceae, Tissierellaceae, Staphylococcaceae, and Propionibacteriaceae in GPA and RA. Further, decreased abundance of Corynebacteriaceae, and Aerococcaceae was observed in GPA samples. Significantly more colonization of S. aureus was seen in the nasal microbiome of GPA compared with RA and healthy control samples. H. influenzae colonization was also observed in GPA samples. UMERS detected the presence of rhinoviral sequences in some GPA samples. Thus, our study uncovered changes in the URT microbial composition in patients with GPA and RA, suggesting that both immunosuppression and disease background affect the URT microbiome. Complex alterations of host-microbiome interactions in the URT could influence chronic endonasal inflammation in GPA.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
Background: Avibactam is a novel broad-range β-lactamase inhibitor active against Ambler class A (including ESBL and KPC) and some Ambler class C and D (e.g. OXA-48) enzymes. We here report on the emergence of ceftazidime/avibactam resistance in clinical, multiresistant, OXA-48 and CTX-M-14-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae isolate DT12 during ceftazidime/avibactam treatment.
Methods and results: Comparative whole-genome sequence analysis identified two SNPs in the CTX-M-14-encoding gene leading to two amino acid changes (P170S and T264I). Compared with WT CTX-M-14, expression of the CTX-M-14 Δ170Δ264 isoform in Escherichia coli led to a >64- and 16-fold increase in ceftazidime and ceftazidime/avibactam MICs, respectively, functionally linking the observed SNPs and elevated MICs. The mutated CTX-M-14 isoform exhibited augmented ceftazidime hydrolytic activity, which was a reasonable cause for impaired susceptibility to avibactam inhibition. The P170S exchange in CTX-M-14 was found in association with elevated ceftazidime/avibactam MICs for independent K. pneumoniae isolates, but was not sufficient for full resistance. Apparently, additional CTX-M-independent mechanisms contribute to ceftazidime/avibactam resistance in K. pneumoniae DT12.
Conclusions: This study on the molecular basis of ceftazidime/avibactam resistance in clinical K. pneumoniae emerging in vivo underscores the need for continuous monitoring of ceftazidime/avibactam susceptibility during therapy. Despite sustained inhibition of OXA-48, rapid development of CTX-M-14 isoforms exhibiting augmented ceftazidime hydrolytic activity may limit the usefulness of ceftazidime/avibactam monotherapies in infections caused by isolates carrying bla CTX-M-14 and bla OXA-48 .
Recently Gram-negative bacteria co-producing multiple carbapenemases have emerged in different parts of the world. We report the first isolation of an Escherichia coli strain co-producing the carbapenemases NDM-1 and OXA-232.
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Th17 cells are most abundant in the gut, where their presence depends on the intestinal microbiota. Here, we examined whether intestinal Th17 cells contribute to extra-intestinal Th17 responses in autoimmune kidney disease. We found high frequencies of Th17 cells in the kidneys of patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmatic antibody (ANCA)-associated glomerulonephritis. We utilized photoconversion of intestinal cells in Kaede mice to track intestinal T cell mobilization upon glomerulonephritis induction, and we found that Th17 cells egress from the gut in a S1P-receptor-1-dependent fashion and subsequently migrate to the kidney via the CCL20/CCR6 axis. Depletion of intestinal Th17 cells in germ-free and antibiotic-treated mice ameliorated renal disease, whereas expansion of these cells upon Citrobacter rodentium infection exacerbated pathology. Thus, in some autoimmune settings, intestinal Th17 cells migrate into target organs, where they contribute to pathology. Targeting the intestinal Th17 cell "reservoir" may present a therapeutic strategy for these autoimmune disorders.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Research output: SCORING: Book or contribution to book/anthology › Conference contribution - Poster › Research
Research output: SCORING: Book or contribution to book/anthology › Conference contribution - Article for conference › Research › peer-review
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