Whole genome sequencing is increasing used in epidemiology, e.g. for tracing outbreaks of food-borne diseases. This requires in-depth understanding of pathogen emergence, persistence, and genomic diversity along the food production chain including in food processing plants. We sequenced the genomes of 80 isolates of Listeria monocytogenes sampled from Danish food processing plants over a time-period of 20 years, and analyzed the sequences together with 10 public available reference genomes to advance our understanding of inter- and intra-plant genomic diversity of L. monocytogenes. Except for three persisting sequence types (ST) based on Multi Locus Sequence Typing (MLST) being ST7, ST8 and ST121, long-term persistence of clonal groups was limited, and new clones were introduced continuously, potentially from raw materials. No particular gene could be linked to the persistence phenotype. Using time-based phylogenetic analyses of the persistent STs, we estimate the L. monocytogenes evolutionary rate to be 0.18-0.35 SNPs/year, suggesting that the persistent STs emerged approximately 100 years ago, which correlates with the onset of industrialization and globalization of the food market.
Bibliographical noteRunning title: Emergence and diversity of L. monocytogenes
- Listeria monocytogenes
- MLST typing
- Genomics/functional genomics/comparative genomics