Background: Sporotrichosis is a mycotic infectious disease that is generally acquired by traumatic inoculation of contaminated materials especially from plant debris or through bites and scratches from diseased animals, such as domestic cats. It affects the skin, lymphatic system, and other organs in the warm-blooded host. Etiological agents are embedded in the plant-associated order Ophiostomatales. With essential differences between possible outbreak sources and ecological niche, host-environment interactions are classic determinants of risk factors for disease acquisition. Sporotrichosis outbreaks with zoonotic transmission, such as those that are ongoing in southern and southeastern Brazil, have highlighted the threat of cross-species pathogen transmission. Sporothrix brasiliensis has emerged as a human threat owing to the intimate contact pattern between diseased cats and humans in endemic areas.
Results: We describe the recent emergence of feline sporotrichosis in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, Brazil, with an overwhelming occurrence of S. brasiliensis as the etiological agent. A phylogenetic and a haplotype approach were used to investigate the origin of this epidemic and the impact of feline transmission on genetic diversity. During the last 3-year period, 163 cases of feline sporotrichosis were reported in São Paulo with proven S. brasiliensis culture. The haplotype diversity of feline S. brasiliensis isolates revealed the expansion of a clonal population with low genetic diversity. Haplotype analysis confirmed that isolates from São Paulo shared the haplotype originated in the long-lasting outbreak of cat-transmitted sporotrichosis in Rio de Janeiro, which differed from the haplotype circulating in the Rio Grande do Sul epidemic.
Conclusions: The fast spread of sporotrichosis in a short period of time highlights the potential for outbreaks and suggests that the mycosis may affect an urban population with a high concentration of susceptible felines. The feline sporotrichosis epidemic shows no signs of slowing, and this epidemiological pattern may require specific public health strategies to control future outbreaks.