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Genomic diversity of Listeria monocytogenes isolates from seafood, horticulture and factory environments in New Zealand

Abstract

Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne human pathogen that causes systemic infection, fetal-placental infection in pregnant women causing abortion and stillbirth and meningoencephalitis in elderly and immunocompromised individuals. This study aimed to analyse L. monocytogenes from different sources from New Zealand (NZ) and to compare them with international strains. We used pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and whole-genome single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) to study the population structure of the NZ L. monocytogenes isolates and their relationship with the international strains. The NZ isolates formed unique clusters in PFGE, MLST and whole-genome SNP comparisons compared to the international isolates for which data were available. PFGE identified 31 AscI and 29 ApaI PFGE patterns with indistinguishable pulsotypes being present in seafood, horticultural products and environmental samples. Apart from the Asc0002:Apa0002 pulsotype which was distributed across different sources, other pulsotypes were site or factory associated. Whole-genome analysis of 200 randomly selected L. monocytogenes isolates revealed that lineage II dominated the NZ L. monocytogenes populations. MLST comparison of international and NZ isolates with lineage II accounted for 89% (177 of 200) of the total L. monocytogenes population, while the international representation was 45.3% (1674 of 3473). Rarefaction analysis showed that sequence type richness was greater in NZ isolates compared to international trend, however, it should be noted that NZ isolates predominantly came from seafood, horticulture and their respective processing environments or factories, unlike international isolates where there was a good mixture of clinical, food and environmental isolates.

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