The emerging pathogen Cryptococcus gattii causes life-threatening disease in immunocompetent and immunocompromised hosts. Of the four major molecular types (VGI-VGIV), the molecular type VGIII has recently emerged as cause of disease in otherwise healthy individuals, prompting a need to investigate its population genetic structure to understand if there are potential genotype-dependent characteristics in its epidemiology, environmental niche(s), host range and clinical features of disease. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) of 122 clinical, environmental and veterinary C. gattii VGIII isolates from Australia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, USA and Venezuela, and whole genome sequencing (WGS) of 60 isolates representing all established MLST types identified four divergent sub-populations. The majority of the isolates belong to two main clades, corresponding either to serotype B or C, indicating an ongoing species evolution. Both major clades included clinical, environmental and veterinary isolates. The C. gattii VGIII population was genetically highly diverse, with minor differences between countries, isolation source, serotype and mating type. Little to no recombination was found between the two major groups, serotype B and C, at the whole and mitochondrial genome level. C. gattii VGIII is widespread in the Americas, with sporadic cases occurring elsewhere, WGS revealed Mexico and USA as a likely origin of the serotype B VGIII population and Colombia as a possible origin of the serotype C VGIII population. Serotype B isolates are more virulent than serotype C isolates in a murine model of infection, causing predominantly pulmonary cryptococcosis. No specific link between genotype and virulence was observed. Antifungal susceptibility testing against six antifungal drugs revealed that serotype B isolates are more susceptible to azoles than serotype C isolates, highlighting the importance of strain typing to guide effective treatment to improve the disease outcome.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases