The finding of Mycobacterium abscessus transmission between patients supposes a new threat for cystic fibrosis treatment

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The most important nontuberculous mycobacterium that infect cystic fibrosis individuals is Mycobacterium abscessus. It produces infections severe for cystic fibrosis patients because is a multidrug-resistant bacteria really difficult to treat. 

Until now M. abscessus was thought to be acquired from the environment but a recent population-level genomics study published in Science has demonstrated that M. abscessus can be acquired in the hospital via indirect transmission between patients.

In this study 1080 whole-genome sequences were analyzed and phylogenetic analysis were done with the objective of knowing the provenance of the isolates:

We generated whole-genome sequences for 1080 clinical isolates of M. abscessus from 517 patients, obtained from UK CF clinics and their associated regional reference laboratories, as well as CF centers in the United States [University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill], the Republic of Ireland (Dublin), mainland Europe (Denmark, Sweden, and Netherlands), and Australia (Queens- land).

The conclusion was that:

the majority of M. abscessus infections are acquired through transmission, potentially via fomites and aerosols, of recently emerged dominant circulating clones that have spread globally

This is another example of the new possibilities that massive sequencing technologies and population genomics provide to solve questions related with epidemiological problems and global spread of infections.


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Raquel Tobes