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Journal: mBio


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the deadliest type of brain tumor, and glioma stem cells (GSCs) contribute to tumor recurrence and therapeutic resistance. Thus, an oncolytic virus targeting GSCs may be useful for improving GBM treatment. Because Zika virus (ZIKV) has an oncolytic tropism for infecting GSCs, we investigated the safety and efficacy of a live attenuated ZIKV vaccine candidate (ZIKV-LAV) for the treatment of human GBM in a GSC-derived orthotopic model. Intracerebral injection of ZIKV-LAV into mice caused no neurological symptoms or behavioral abnormalities. The neurovirulence of ZIKV-LAV was more attenuated than that of the licensed Japanese encephalitis virus LAV 14-14-2, underlining the superior safety of ZIKV-LAV for potential GBM treatment. Importantly, ZIKV-LAV significantly reduced intracerebral tumor growth and prolonged animal survival by selectively killing GSCs within the tumor. Mechanistically, ZIKV infection elicited antiviral immunity, inflammation, and GSC apoptosis. Together, these results further support the clinical development of ZIKV-LAV for GBM therapy.IMPORTANCE Glioblastoma (GBM), the deadliest type of brain tumor, is currently incurable because of its high recurrence rate after traditional treatments, including surgery to remove the main part of the tumor and radiation and chemotherapy to target residual tumor cells. These treatments fail mainly due to the presence of a cell subpopulation called glioma stem cells (GSCs), which are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy and capable of self-renewal and tumorigenicity. Because Zika virus (ZIKV) has an oncolytic tropism for infecting GSCs, we tested a live attenuated ZIKV vaccine candidate (ZIKV-LAV) for the treatment of human GBM in a human GSC-derived orthotopic model. Our results showed that ZIKV-LAV retained good efficacy against glioblastoma by selectively killing GSCs within the tumor. In addition, ZIKV-LAV exhibited an excellent safety profile upon intracerebral injection into the treated animals. The good balance between the safety of ZIKV-LAV and its efficacy against human GSCs suggests that it is a potential candidate for combination with the current treatment regimen for GBM therapy.


ABSTRACT A new human coronavirus (hCoV-EMC) has emerged very recently in the Middle East. The clinical presentation resembled that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as encountered during the epidemic in 2002/2003. In both cases, acute renal failure was observed in humans. HCoV-EMC is a member of the same virus genus as SARS-CoV but constitutes a sister species. Here we investigated whether it might utilize angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the SARS-CoV receptor. Knowledge of the receptor is highly critical because the restriction of the SARS receptor to deep compartments of the human respiratory tract limited the spread of SARS. In baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells, lentiviral transduction of human ACE2 (hACE2) conferred permissiveness and replication for SARS-CoV but not for hCoV-EMC. Monkey and human kidney cells (LLC-MK2, Vero, and 769-P) and swine kidney cells were permissive for both viruses, but only SARS-CoV infection could be blocked by anti-hACE2 antibody and could be neutralized by preincubation of virus with soluble ACE2. Our data show that ACE2 is neither necessary nor sufficient for hCoV-EMC replication. Moreover, hCoV-EMC, but not SARS-CoV, replicated in cell lines from Rousettus, Rhinolophus, Pipistrellus, Myotis, and Carollia bats, representing four major chiropteran families from both suborders. As human CoV normally cannot replicate in bat cells from different families, this suggests that hCoV-EMC might use a receptor molecule that is conserved in bats, pigs, and humans, implicating a low barrier against cross-host transmission. IMPORTANCE  A new human coronavirus (hCoV) emerged recently in the Middle East. The disease resembled SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), causing a fatal epidemic in 2002/2003. Coronaviruses have a reservoir in bats and because this novel virus is related to SARS-CoV, we investigated whether it might replicate in bat cells and use the same receptor (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 [ACE2]). This knowledge is highly critical, because the SARS-CoV receptor influenced pathology, and its localization in the deep respiratory tract is thought to have restricted the transmissibility of SARS. Our data show that hCoV-EMC does not need the SARS-CoV receptor to infect human cells. Moreover, the virus is capable of infecting human, pig, and bat cells. This is remarkable, as human CoVs normally cannot replicate in bat cells as a consequence of host adaptation. Our results implicate that the new virus might use a receptor that is conserved between bats, pigs and humans suggesting a low barrier against cross-host transmission.

Concepts: Protein, Virus, Infection, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Mammal, Primate, Bat, Coronavirus


ABSTRACT A novel human coronavirus (HCoV-EMC/2012) was isolated from a man with acute pneumonia and renal failure in June 2012. This report describes the complete genome sequence, genome organization, and expression strategy of HCoV-EMC/2012 and its relation with known coronaviruses. The genome contains 30,119 nucleotides and contains at least 10 predicted open reading frames, 9 of which are predicted to be expressed from a nested set of seven subgenomic mRNAs. Phylogenetic analysis of the replicase gene of coronaviruses with completely sequenced genomes showed that HCoV-EMC/2012 is most closely related to Tylonycteris bat coronavirus HKU4 (BtCoV-HKU4) and Pipistrellus bat coronavirus HKU5 (BtCoV-HKU5), which prototype two species in lineage C of the genus Betacoronavirus. In accordance with the guidelines of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and in view of the 75% and 77% amino acid sequence identity in 7 conserved replicase domains with BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5, respectively, we propose that HCoV-EMC/2012 prototypes a novel species in the genus Betacoronavirus. HCoV-EMC/2012 may be most closely related to a coronavirus detected in Pipistrellus pipistrellus in The Netherlands, but because only a short sequence from the most conserved part of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase-encoding region of the genome was reported for this bat virus, its genetic distance from HCoV-EMC remains uncertain. HCoV-EMC/2012 is the sixth coronavirus known to infect humans and the first human virus within betacoronavirus lineage C. IMPORTANCE Coronaviruses are capable of infecting humans and many animal species. Most infections caused by human coronaviruses are relatively mild. However, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by SARS-CoV in 2002 to 2003 and the fatal infection of a human by HCoV-EMC/2012 in 2012 show that coronaviruses are able to cause severe, sometimes fatal disease in humans. We have determined the complete genome of HCoV-EMC/2012 using an unbiased virus discovery approach involving next-generation sequencing techniques, which enabled subsequent state-of-the-art bioinformatics, phylogenetics, and taxonomic analyses. By establishing its complete genome sequence, HCoV-EMC/2012 was characterized as a new genotype which is closely related to bat coronaviruses that are distant from SARS-CoV. We expect that this information will be vital to rapid advancement of both clinical and vital research on this emerging pathogen.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Virus, Genome, RNA, Acute respiratory distress syndrome, Severe acute respiratory syndrome


ABSTRACT Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is largely responsible for increasing the incidence of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide. While studies have focused on HGT in vivo, this work investigates whether the ability of pathogens to persist in the environment, particularly on touch surfaces, may also play an important role. Escherichia coli, virulent clone ST131, and Klebsiella pneumoniae harboring extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL) bla(CTX-M-15) and metallo-β-lactamase bla(NDM-1), respectively, exhibited prolonged survival on stainless steel, with approximately 10(4) viable cells remaining from an inoculum of 10(7) CFU per cm(2) after 1 month at 21°C. HGT of bla to an antibiotic-sensitive but azide-resistant recipient E. coli strain occurred on stainless steel dry touch surfaces and in suspension but not on dry copper. The conjugation frequency was approximately 10 to 50 times greater and occurred immediately, and resulting transconjugants were more stable with ESBL E. coli as the donor cell than with K. pneumoniae, but bla(NDM-1) transfer increased with time. Transconjugants also exhibited the same resistance profile as the donor, suggesting multiple gene transfer. Rapid death, inhibition of respiration, and destruction of genomic and plasmid DNA of both pathogens occurred on copper alloys accompanied by a reduction in bla copy number. Naked E. coli DNA degraded on copper at 21°C and 37°C but slowly at 4°C, suggesting a direct role for the metal. Persistence of viable pathogenic bacteria on touch surfaces may not only increase the risk of infection transmission but may also contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance by HGT. The use of copper alloys as antimicrobial touch surfaces may help reduce infection and HGT. IMPORTANCE Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) conferring resistance to many classes of antimicrobials has resulted in a worldwide epidemic of nosocomial and community infections caused by multidrug-resistant microorganisms, leading to suggestions that we are in effect returning to the preantibiotic era. While studies have focused on HGT in vivo, this work investigates whether the ability of pathogens to persist in the environment, particularly on touch surfaces, may also play an important role. Here we show prolonged (several-week) survival of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae on stainless steel surfaces. Plasmid-mediated HGT of β-lactamase genes to an azide-resistant recipient E. coli strain occurred when the donor and recipient cells were mixed together on stainless steel and in suspension but not on copper surfaces. In addition, rapid death of both antibiotic-resistant strains and destruction of plasmid and genomic DNA were observed on copper and copper alloy surfaces, which could be useful in the prevention of infection spread and gene transfer.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Genome, Horizontal gene transfer, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Bacterial conjugation


The hospital environment is a potential reservoir of bacteria with plasmids conferring carbapenem resistance. Our Hospital Epidemiology Service routinely performs extensive sampling of high-touch surfaces, sinks, and other locations in the hospital. Over a 2-year period, additional sampling was conducted at a broader range of locations, including housekeeping closets, wastewater from hospital internal pipes, and external manholes. We compared these data with previously collected information from 5 years of patient clinical and surveillance isolates. Whole-genome sequencing and analysis of 108 isolates provided comprehensive characterization of blaKPC/blaNDM-positive isolates, enabling an in-depth genetic comparison. Strikingly, despite a very low prevalence of patient infections with blaKPC-positive organisms, all samples from the intensive care unit pipe wastewater and external manholes contained carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPOs), suggesting a vast, resilient reservoir. We observed a diverse set of species and plasmids, and we noted species and susceptibility profile differences between environmental and patient populations of CPOs. However, there were plasmid backbones common to both populations, highlighting a potential environmental reservoir of mobile elements that may contribute to the spread of resistance genes. Clear associations between patient and environmental isolates were uncommon based on sequence analysis and epidemiology, suggesting reasonable infection control compliance at our institution. Nonetheless, a probable nosocomial transmission of Leclercia sp. from the housekeeping environment to a patient was detected by this extensive surveillance. These data and analyses further our understanding of CPOs in the hospital environment and are broadly relevant to the design of infection control strategies in many infrastructure settings.IMPORTANCE Carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPOs) are a global concern because of the morbidity and mortality associated with these resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Horizontal plasmid transfer spreads the resistance mechanism to new bacteria, and understanding the plasmid ecology of the hospital environment can assist in the design of control strategies to prevent nosocomial infections. A 5-year genomic and epidemiological survey was undertaken to study the CPOs in the patient-accessible environment, as well as in the plumbing system removed from the patient. This comprehensive survey revealed a vast, unappreciated reservoir of CPOs in wastewater, which was in contrast to the low positivity rate in both the patient population and the patient-accessible environment. While there were few patient-environmental isolate associations, there were plasmid backbones common to both populations. These results are relevant to all hospitals for which CPO colonization may not yet be defined through extensive surveillance.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Bacteria, Genome, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Plasmid


Cervicovaginal mucus (CVM) can provide a barrier that precludes HIV and other sexually transmitted virions from reaching target cells in the vaginal epithelium, thereby preventing or reducing infections. However, the barrier properties of CVM differ from woman to woman, and the causes of these variations are not yet well understood. Using high-resolution particle tracking of fluorescent HIV-1 pseudoviruses, we found that neither pH nor Nugent scores nor total lactic acid levels correlated significantly with virus trapping in unmodified CVM from diverse donors. Surprisingly, HIV-1 was generally trapped in CVM with relatively high concentrations of d-lactic acid and a Lactobacillus crispatus-dominant microbiota. In contrast, a substantial fraction of HIV-1 virions diffused rapidly through CVM with low concentrations of d-lactic acid that had a Lactobacillus iners-dominant microbiota or significant amounts of Gardnerella vaginalis, a bacterium associated with bacterial vaginosis. Our results demonstrate that the vaginal microbiota, including specific species of Lactobacillus, can alter the diffusional barrier properties of CVM against HIV and likely other sexually transmitted viruses and that these microbiota-associated changes may account in part for the elevated risks of HIV acquisition linked to bacterial vaginosis or intermediate vaginal microbiota.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Virus, Genome, Lactic acid, Sexually transmitted diseases and infections, Bacterial vaginosis, Gardnerella vaginalis


ABSTRACT Community interactions at mucosal surfaces between viruses, like influenza virus, and respiratory bacterial pathogens are important contributors toward pathogenesis of bacterial disease. What has not been considered is the natural extension of these interactions to live attenuated immunizations, and in particular, live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs). Using a mouse-adapted LAIV against influenza A (H3N2) virus carrying the same mutations as the human FluMist vaccine, we find that LAIV vaccination reverses normal bacterial clearance from the nasopharynx and significantly increases bacterial carriage densities of the clinically important bacterial pathogens Streptococcus pneumoniae (serotypes 19F and 7F) and Staphylococcus aureus (strains Newman and Wright) within the upper respiratory tract of mice. Vaccination with LAIV also resulted in 2- to 5-fold increases in mean durations of bacterial carriage. Furthermore, we show that the increases in carriage density and duration were nearly identical in all aspects to changes in bacterial colonizing dynamics following infection with wild-type (WT) influenza virus. Importantly, LAIV, unlike WT influenza viruses, had no effect on severe bacterial disease or mortality within the lower respiratory tract. Our findings are, to the best of our knowledge, the first to demonstrate that vaccination with a live attenuated viral vaccine can directly modulate colonizing dynamics of important and unrelated human bacterial pathogens, and does so in a manner highly analogous to that seen following wild-type virus infection. IMPORTANCE Following infection with an influenza virus, infected or recently recovered individuals become transiently susceptible to excess bacterial infections, particularly Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Indeed, in the absence of preexisting comorbidities, bacterial infections are a leading cause of severe disease during influenza epidemics. While this synergy has been known and is well studied, what has not been explored is the natural extension of these interactions to live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs). Here we show, in mice, that vaccination with LAIV primes the upper respiratory tract for increased bacterial growth and persistence of bacterial carriage, in a manner nearly identical to that seen following wild-type influenza virus infections. Importantly, LAIV, unlike wild-type virus, did not increase severe bacterial disease of the lower respiratory tract. These findings may have consequences for individual bacterial disease processes within the upper respiratory tract, as well as bacterial transmission dynamics within LAIV-vaccinated populations.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Pneumonia, Vaccination, Influenza, Influenza vaccine


Anthrax is a zoonotic disease that occurs naturally in wild and domestic animals but has been used by both state-sponsored programs and terrorists as a biological weapon. A Soviet industrial production facility in Sverdlovsk, USSR, proved deficient in 1979 when a plume of spores was accidentally released and resulted in one of the largest known human anthrax outbreaks. In order to understand this outbreak and others, we generated a Bacillus anthracis population genetic database based upon whole-genome analysis to identify all single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across a reference genome. Phylogenetic analysis has defined three major clades (A, B, and C), B and C being relatively rare compared to A. The A clade has numerous subclades, including a major polytomy named the trans-Eurasian (TEA) group. The TEA radiation is a dominant evolutionary feature of B. anthracis, with many contemporary populations having resulted from a large spatial dispersal of spores from a single source. Two autopsy specimens from the Sverdlovsk outbreak were deep sequenced to produce draft B. anthracis genomes. This allowed the phylogenetic placement of the Sverdlovsk strain into a clade with two Asian live vaccine strains, including the Russian Tsiankovskii strain. The genome was examined for evidence of drug resistance manipulation or other genetic engineering, but none was found. The Soviet Sverdlovsk strain genome is consistent with a wild-type strain from Russia that had no evidence of genetic manipulation during its industrial production. This work provides insights into the world’s largest biological weapons program and provides an extensive B. anthracis phylogenetic reference.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Biology, Organism, Virus, Biological warfare, Anthrax


Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram-negative pathogen responsible for a wide range of infections, including pneumonia and bacteremia, and is rapidly acquiring antibiotic resistance. K. pneumoniae requires secretion of siderophores, low-molecular-weight, high-affinity iron chelators, for bacterial replication and full virulence. The specific combination of siderophores secreted by K. pneumoniae during infection can impact tissue localization, systemic dissemination, and host survival. However, the effect of these potent iron chelators on the host during infection is unknown. In vitro, siderophores deplete epithelial cell iron, induce cytokine secretion, and activate the master transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) protein that controls vascular permeability and inflammatory gene expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that siderophore secretion by K. pneumoniae directly contributes to inflammation and bacterial dissemination during pneumonia. To examine the effects of siderophore secretion independently of bacterial growth, we performed infections with tonB mutants that persist in vivo but are deficient in siderophore import. Using a murine model of pneumonia, we found that siderophore secretion by K. pneumoniae induces the secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6), CXCL1, and CXCL2, as well as bacterial dissemination to the spleen, compared to siderophore-negative mutants at an equivalent bacterial number. Furthermore, we determined that siderophore-secreting K. pneumoniae stabilized HIF-1α in vivo and that bacterial dissemination to the spleen required alveolar epithelial HIF-1α. Our results indicate that siderophores act directly on the host to induce inflammatory cytokines and bacterial dissemination and that HIF-1α is a susceptibility factor for bacterial invasion during pneumonia.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Bacteria, Microbiology, Pneumonia


A mechanistic understanding of the purported health benefits conferred by consumption of probiotic bacteria has been limited by our knowledge of the resident gut microbiota and its interaction with the host. Here, we detail the impact of a single-organism probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG ATCC 53103 (LGG), on the structure and functional dynamics (gene expression) of the gut microbiota in a study of 12 healthy individuals, 65 to 80 years old. The analysis revealed that while the overall community composition was stable as assessed by 16S rRNA profiling, the transcriptional response of the gut microbiota was modulated by probiotic treatment. Comparison of transcriptional profiles based on taxonomic composition yielded three distinct transcriptome groups that displayed considerable differences in functional dynamics. The transcriptional profile of LGG in vivo was remarkably concordant across study subjects despite the considerable interindividual nature of the gut microbiota. However, we identified genes involved in flagellar motility, chemotaxis, and adhesion from Bifidobacterium and the dominant butyrate producers Roseburia and Eubacterium whose expression was increased during probiotic consumption, suggesting that LGG may promote interactions between key constituents of the microbiota and the host epithelium. These results provide evidence for the discrete functional effects imparted by a specific single-organism probiotic and challenge the prevailing notion that probiotics substantially modify the resident microbiota within nondiseased individuals in an appreciable fashion.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Bacteria, Gut flora, Probiotic, Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus