The "Beijing" Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) lineage 2 (L2) is spreading globally and has been associated with accelerated disease progression and increased antibiotic resistance. Here we performed a phylodynamic reconstruction of one of the L2 sublineages, the central Asian clade (CAC), which has recently spread to western Europe. We find that recent historical events have contributed to the evolution and dispersal of the CAC. Our timing estimates indicate that the clade was likely introduced to Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan war and spread further after population displacement in the wake of the American invasion in 2001. We also find that drug resistance mutations accumulated on a massive scale in Mtb isolates from former Soviet republics after the fall of the Soviet Union, a pattern that was not observed in CAC isolates from Afghanistan. Our results underscore the detrimental effects of political instability and population displacement on tuberculosis control and demonstrate the power of phylodynamic methods in exploring bacterial evolution in space and time.
Keywords: Mycobacterium tuberculosis; antimicrobial resistance; evolution; phylodynamic analysis; tip-dating.