Burkholderia (B.) mallei is a host-adapted equine pathogen that causes glanders, a re-emerging zoonotic disease, which is endemic in Pakistan and other developing countries and seriously impacts the global equine movement. Due to globalization, the geographical restriction of diseases vanishes and the lack of awareness of and experience with eradicated diseases in industrialized countries also promotes the re-introduction of infections in these regions. Owing to the high equine population, the Pakistani province Punjab is a potential hotspot where several glanders outbreaks have been seen over last two decades. For determining the genomic diversity of B. mallei in this and other equine-populated prefectures, the genomes of 19 B. mallei strains isolated between 1999 and 2020 in different locations were sequenced and their genotypes were determined. Particularly, for genetically highly homogenous pathogens like B. mallei genotyping techniques require a high discriminatory power for enabling differentiation on the strain level. Thus, core-genome single nucleotide polymorphism (cgSNP) analysis was applied for distinguishing the highly similar strains. Furthermore, a whole-genome sequence-based core genome multi locus sequence typing (cgMLST) scheme, specific to B. mallei, was developed and additionally applied to the data. It was found that B. mallei genotypes in Pakistan persisted over time and space and genotype clusters preferred connection with a time point rather than the place of isolation, probably due to frequent equine movement, which promotes the spread of glanders. The cgMLST approach proved to work in accord with SNP typing and may help to investigate future glanders outbreaks.
Keywords: Burkholderia mallei; Pakistan; SNP typing; WGS; cgMLST scheme; genotyping; glanders.