Phase variation in latB associated with a fatal Pasteurella multocida outbreak in captive squirrel gliders

Vet Microbiol. 2020 Apr;243:108612. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2020.108612. Epub 2020 Feb 14.


A septicaemic disease outbreak caused by Pasteurella multocida at a zoo in Western Australia (Zoo A) occurred in a resident group of squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) following the introduction of two squirrel gliders imported from another zoo (Zoo B). P. multocida isolates obtained from the affected animals and asymptomatic, cohabiting marsupials at both zoos were typed via lipopolysaccharide outer core biosynthesis locus (LPS) typing, repetitive extragenic palindromic PCR (Rep-PCR) typing, and multilocus sequence typing (ST). Investigation of isolate relatedness via whole genome sequencing (WGS) and phylogenomic analysis found that the outbreak isolates shared the same genetic profile as those obtained from the imported gliders and the positive marsupials at Zoo B. Phylogenomic analysis demonstrated that these isolates belonged to the same clone (named complex one), confirming that the outbreak strain originated at Zoo B. As well, the carriage of multiple different strains of this pathogen in a range of marsupials in a zoo setting has been demonstrated. Importantly, the genomic investigation identified a missense mutation in the latB, a structural LPS gene, resulting in introduction of an immediate stop codon in the isolates carried by asymptomatic squirrel gliders in Zoo B. The identified diversity in the latB gene of LPS outer core biosynthesis loci of these isolates is consistent with a novel phase variable mechanism for virulence in P. multocida. Our study demonstrates the benefit of WGS and bioinformatics analysis in epidemiological investigations of pasteurellosis and its potential to reveal unexpected insights into bacterial virulence.

Keywords: Bettongia pencillata; Marsupials; O-acetylation; Pasteurella multocida; Petaurus norfolcensis; Whole genome sequencing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo / microbiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Disease Outbreaks / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Marsupialia / microbiology
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Pasteurella Infections / microbiology
  • Pasteurella Infections / veterinary*
  • Pasteurella multocida / classification*
  • Pasteurella multocida / pathogenicity
  • Phylogeny
  • Sciuridae / microbiology*
  • Sepsis / microbiology
  • Sepsis / veterinary*
  • Virulence
  • Western Australia
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • Bacterial Proteins