Plague, one of the most devastating infectious diseases in human history, is caused by the bacterial species Yersinia pestis. A live attenuated Y. pestis strain (EV76) has been widely used as a plague vaccine in various countries around the world. Here we compared the whole genome sequence of an EV76 strain used in China (EV76-CN) with the genomes of Y. pestis wild isolates to identify genetic variations specific to the EV76 lineage. We identified 6 SNPs and 6 Indels (insertions and deletions) differentiating EV76-CN from its counterparts. Then, we screened these polymorphic sites in 28 other strains of EV76 lineage that were stored in different countries. Based on the profiles of SNPs and Indels, we reconstructed the parsimonious dissemination history of EV76 lineage. This analysis revealed that there have been at least three independent imports of EV76 strains into China. Additionally, we observed that the pyrE gene is a mutation hotspot in EV76 lineages. The fine comparison results based on whole genome sequence in this study provide better understanding of the effects of laboratory passages on the accumulation of genetic polymorphisms in plague vaccine strains. These variations identified here will also be helpful in discriminating different EV76 derivatives.
Keywords: EV76; Genetic variation; Live vaccine; Yersinia pestis.
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