Australian human and parrot Chlamydia psittaci strains cluster within the highly virulent 6BC clade of this important zoonotic pathogen

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2016, 6
Issue Date:
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Chlamydia psittaci is an avian pathogen and zoonotic agent of atypical pneumonia. The most pathogenic C. psittaci strains cluster into the 6BC clade, predicted to have recently emerged globally. Exposure to infected parrots is a risk factor with limited evidence also of an indirect exposure risk. Genome sequencing was performed on six Australian human and a single avian C. psittaci strain isolated over a 9 year period. Only one of the five human patients had explicit psittacine contact. Genomics analyses revealed that the Australian C. psittaci strains are remarkably similar, clustering tightly within the C. psittaci 6BC clade suggested to have been disseminated by South America parrot importation. Molecular clock analysis using the newly sequenced C. psittaci genomes predicted the emergence of the 6BC clade occurring approximately 2,000 years ago. These findings reveal the potential for an Australian natural reservoir of C. psittaci 6BC strains. These strains can also be isolated from seriously ill patients without explicit psittacine contact. The apparent recent and global spread of C. psittaci 6BC strains raises important questions over how this happened. Further studies may reveal whether the dissemination of this important zoonotic pathogen is linked to Australian parrot importation rather than parrots from elsewhere.
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