Emergence of a new multidrug-resistant serotype X variant in an epidemic clone of Shigella flexneri

J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Feb;48(2):419-26. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00614-09. Epub 2009 Dec 2.


Shigella spp. are the causative agent of shigellosis with Shigella flexneri serotype 2a being the most prevalent in developing countries. Epidemiological surveillance in China found that a new serotype of S. flexneri appeared in 2001 and replaced serotype 2a in 2003 as the most prevalent serotype in Henan Province. The new serotype also became the dominant serotype in 7 of the 10 other provinces under surveillance in China by 2007. The serotype was identified as a variant of serotype X. It differs from serotype X by agglutination to the monovalent anti-IV type antiserum and the group antigen-specific monoclonal antibody MASF IV-I. Genome sequencing of a serotype X variant isolate, 2002017, showed that it acquired a Shigella serotype conversion island, also as an SfX bacteriophage, containing gtr genes for type X-specific glucosylation. Multilocus sequence typing of 15 genes from 37 serotype X variant isolates and 69 isolates of eight other serotypes, 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a, 4a, 5b, X, and Y, found that all belong to a new sequence type (ST), ST91. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed 154 pulse types with 655 S. flexneri isolates analyzed and identified 57 serotype switching events. The data suggest that S. flexneri epidemics in China have been caused by a single epidemic clone, ST91, with frequent serotype switching to evade infection-induced immunity to serotypes to which the population was exposed previously. The clone has also acquired resistance to multiple antibiotics. These findings underscore the challenges to the current vaccine development and control strategies for shigellosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Typing Techniques*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Dysentery, Bacillary / epidemiology*
  • Dysentery, Bacillary / microbiology*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genomic Islands
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Prophages / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Serotyping
  • Shigella flexneri / classification*
  • Shigella flexneri / drug effects
  • Shigella flexneri / isolation & purification*


  • DNA, Bacterial

Associated data

  • GENBANK/GQ480774
  • GENBANK/GQ480775
  • GENBANK/GQ480776
  • GENBANK/GQ480777
  • GENBANK/GQ480778
  • GENBANK/GQ480779
  • GENBANK/GQ480780
  • GENBANK/GQ480781
  • GENBANK/GQ480782
  • GENBANK/GQ480783
  • GENBANK/GQ480784
  • GENBANK/GQ480785
  • GENBANK/GQ480786
  • GENBANK/GQ480787
  • GENBANK/GQ480788
  • GENBANK/GQ480789
  • GENBANK/GQ480790
  • GENBANK/GQ480791
  • GENBANK/GQ480792
  • GENBANK/GQ480793
  • GENBANK/GQ480794