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Melioidosis is an often-fatal neglected tropical disease caused by an environmental bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. However, our understanding of the disease-causing bacterial lineages, their dissemination, and adaptive mechanisms remains limited. To address this, we conduct a comprehensive genomic analysis of 1,391 B. pseudomallei isolates collected from nine hospitals in northeast Thailand between 2015 and 2018, and contemporaneous isolates from neighbouring countries, representing the most densely sampled collection to date. Our study identifies three dominant lineages, each with unique gene sets potentially enhancing bacterial fitness in the environment. We find that recombination drives lineage-specific gene flow. Transcriptome analyses of representative clinical isolates from each dominant lineage reveal increased expression of lineage-specific genes under environmental conditions in two out of three lineages. This underscores the potential importance of environmental persistence for these dominant lineages. The study also highlights the influence of environmental factors such as terrain slope, altitude, and river direction on the geographical dispersal of B. pseudomallei. Collectively, our findings suggest that environmental persistence may play a role in facilitating the spread of B. pseudomallei, and as a prerequisite for exposure and infection, thereby providing useful insights for informing melioidosis prevention and control strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Communications


Nature Research

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