The gram-negative bacterium Haemophilus influenzae is a human-restricted commensal of the nasopharynx that can also be associated with disease. The majority of H. influenzae respiratory isolates lack the genes for capsule production and are nontypeable (NTHI). Whereas encapsulated strains are known to belong to serotype-specific phylogenetic groups, the structure of the NTHI population has not been previously described. A total of 656 H. influenzae strains, including 322 NTHI strains, have been typed by multilocus sequence typing and found to have 359 sequence types (ST). We performed maximum-parsimony analysis of the 359 sequences and calculated the majority-rule consensus of 4,545 resulting equally most parsimonious trees. Eleven clades were identified, consisting of six or more ST on a branch that was present in 100% of trees. Two additional clades were denned by branches present in 91% and 82% of trees, respectively. Of these 13 clades, 8 consisted predominantly of NTHI strains, three were serotype specific, and 2 contained distinct NTHI-specific and serotype-specific clusters of strains. Sixty percent of NTHI strains have ST within one of the 13 clades, and eBURST analysis identified an additional phylogenetic group that contained 20% of NTHI strains. There was concordant clustering of certain metabolic reactions and putative virulence loci but not of disease source or geographic origin. We conclude that well-defined phylogenetic groups of NTHI strains exist and that these groups differ in genetic content. These observations will provide a framework for further study of the effect of genetic diversity on the interaction of NTHI with the host.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology