Within-host evolution of Enterococcus faecium during longitudinal carriage and transition to bloodstream infection in immunocompromised patients.

22 Feb 2018

BACKGROUND: Enterococcus faecium is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infection, particularly in the immunocompromised. Here, we use whole genome sequencing of E. faecium to study within-host evolution and the transition from gut carriage to invasive disease. METHODS: We isolated and sequenced 180 E. faecium from four immunocompromised patients who developed bloodstream infection during longitudinal surveillance of E. faecium in stool and their immediate environment. RESULTS: A phylogenetic tree based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the core genome of the 180 isolates demonstrated several distinct clones. This was highly concordant with the population structure inferred by Bayesian methods, which contained four main BAPS (Bayesian Analysis of Population Structure) groups. The majority of isolates from each patient resided in a single group, but all four patients also carried minority populations in stool from multiple phylogenetic groups. Bloodstream isolates from each case belonged to a single BAPS group, which differed in all four patients. Analysis of 87 isolates (56 from blood) belonging to a single BAPS group that were cultured from the same patient over 54 days identified 30 SNPs in the core genome (nine intergenic, 13 non-synonymous, eight synonymous), and 250 accessory genes that were variably present. Comparison of these genetic variants in blood isolates versus those from stool or environment did not identify any variants associated with bloodstream infection. The substitution rate for these isolates was estimated to be 128 (95% confidence interval 79.82 181.77) mutations per genome per year, more than ten times higher than previous estimates for E. faecium. Within-patient variation in vancomycin resistance associated with vanA was common and could be explained by plasmid loss, or less often by transposon loss. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate the diversity of E. faecium carriage by individual patients and significant within-host diversity of E. faecium, but do not provide evidence for adaptive genetic variation associated with invasion.