Identification of pathogenic Leptospira species and serovars in New Zealand using metabarcoding.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease of global importance. The breadth of Leptospira diversity associated with both human and animal disease poses major logistical challenges to the use of classical diagnostic techniques, and increasingly molecular diagnostic tools are used for their detection. In New Zealand, this has resulted in an increase in positive cases reported nationally that have not been attributed to the infecting serovar or genomospecies. In this study, we used data from all pathogenic Leptospira genomes to identify a partial region of the glmU gene as a suitable locus for the discrimination of the infecting species and serovars of New Zealand-endemic Leptospira. This method can be used in culture and culture-independent scenarios making it flexible for diagnostics in humans, animals, and environmental samples. We explored the use of this locus as a molecular barcoding tool via the Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) sequencing platform MinION. Sequences obtained by this method allowed specific identification of Leptospira species in mixed and enriched environmental cultures, however read error inherent in the MinION sequencing system reduced the accuracy of strain/variant identification. Using this approach to characterise Leptospira in enriched environmental cultures, we detected the likely presence of Leptospira genomospecies that have not been reported in New Zealand to date. This included a strain of L. borgpetersenii that has recently been identified in dairy cattle and sequences similar to those of L. mayottensis. L. tipperaryensis, L. dzianensis and L. alstonii.
(c) The Author/s
PLOS ONE, 2021, 16 (9)