Using genomics to understand inter- and intra- outbreak diversity of Pasteurella multocida isolates associated with fowl cholera in meat chickens

Microb Genom. 2020 Mar;6(3):e000346. doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000346.


Fowl cholera, caused by Pasteurella multocida, continues to be a challenge in meat-chicken-breeder operations and has emerged as a problem for free-range meat chickens. Here, using whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and phylogenomic analysis, we investigate isolate relatedness during outbreaks of fowl cholera on a free-range meat chicken farm over a 5-year period. Our genomic analysis revealed that while all outbreak isolates were sequence type (ST) 20, they could be separated into two distinct clades (clade 1 and clade 2) consistent with difference in their lipopolysaccharide (LPS) type. The isolates from the earlier outbreaks (clade 1) were carrying LPS type L3 while those from the more recent outbreaks (clade 2) were LPS type L1. Additionally, WGS data indicated high inter- and intra-chicken genetic diversity during a single outbreak. Furthermore, we demonstrate that while a killed autogenous vaccine carrying LPS type L3 had been successful in protecting against challenge from L3 isolates it might have driven the emergence of the closely related clade 2, against which the vaccine was ineffective. The genomic results also revealed a 14 bp deletion in the galactosyltransferase gene gatG in LPS type L3 isolates, which would result in producing a semi-truncated LPS in those isolates. In conclusion, our study clearly demonstrates the advantages of genomic analysis over the conventional PCR-based approaches in providing clear insights in terms of linkage of isolate within and between outbreaks. More importantly, it provides more detailed information than the multiplex PCR on the possible structure of outer LPS, which is very important in the case of strain selection for killed autogenous vaccines.

Keywords: Pasteurella multocida; fowl cholera; lipopolysaccharides; phylogeny; whole-genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Genomics
  • Lipopolysaccharides / genetics*
  • Pasteurella Infections / epidemiology
  • Pasteurella Infections / microbiology*
  • Pasteurella Infections / veterinary
  • Pasteurella multocida / genetics*
  • Pasteurella multocida / isolation & purification
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Poultry
  • Poultry Diseases / epidemiology
  • Poultry Diseases / microbiology*


  • Lipopolysaccharides