Mycobacterium abscessus is an emerging multidrug-resistant non-tuberculous mycobacterium that causes a wide spectrum of infections and has caused several local outbreaks worldwide. To facilitate standardized prospective molecular surveillance, we established a novel core genome multilocus sequence typing (cgMLST) scheme. Whole genome sequencing data of 1991 isolates were employed to validate the scheme, re-analyze global population structure and set genetic distance thresholds for cluster detection and taxonomic identification. We confirmed and amended the nomenclature of the main dominant circulating clones and found that these also correlate well with traditional 7-loci MLST. Dominant circulating clones could be linked to a corresponding reference genome with less than 250 alleles while 99% of pairwise comparisons between epidemiologically linked isolates were below 25 alleles and 90% below 10 alleles. These thresholds can be used to guide further epidemiological investigations. Overall, the scheme will help to unravel the apparent global spread of certain clonal complexes and as yet undiscovered transmission routes.
© 2022. The Author(s).