Genomic epidemiology and population structure of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from remote highly endemic Western Australian populations
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Background: Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes gonorrhoea, the second most commonly notified sexually transmitted infection in Australia. One of the highest notification rates of gonorrhoea is found in the remote regions of Western Australia (WA). Unlike isolates from the major Australian population centres, the remote community isolates have low rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Population structure and whole-genome comparison of 59 isolates from the Western Australian N. gonorrhoeae collection were used to investigate relatedness of isolates cultured in the metropolitan and remote areas. Core genome phylogeny, multilocus sequencing typing (MLST), N. gonorrhoeae multi-antigen sequence typing (NG-MAST) and N. gonorrhoeae sequence typing for antimicrobial resistance (NG-STAR) in addition to hierarchical clustering of sequences were used to characterize the isolates. Results: Population structure analysis of the 59 isolates together with 72 isolates from an international collection, revealed six population groups suggesting that N. gonorrhoeae is a weakly clonal species. Two distinct population groups, Aus1 and Aus2, represented 63% of WA isolates and were mostly composed of the remote community isolates that carried no chromosomal AMR genotypes. In contrast, the Western Australian metropolitan isolates were frequently multi-drug resistant and belonged to population groups found in the international database, suggesting international transmission of the isolates. Conclusions: Our study suggests that the population structure of N. gonorrhoeae is distinct between the communities in remote and metropolitan WA. Given the high rate of AMR in metropolitan regions, ongoing surveillance is essential to ensure the enduring efficacy of the empiric gonorrhoea treatment in remote WA.
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