Shigella serotypes associated with carriage in humans establish persistent infection in zebrafish

J Infect Dis. 2023 Aug 9;jiad326. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiad326. Online ahead of print.


Shigella represents a paraphyletic group of enteroinvasive Escherichia coli. More than 40 Shigella serotypes have been reported. However, most cases within the MSM (men who have sex with men) community are attributed to three serotypes: Shigella sonnei unique serotype and Shigella flexneri 2a and 3a serotypes. Using the zebrafish model, we demonstrate that Shigella can establish persistent infection in vivo. Bacteria are not cleared by the immune system and become antibiotic-tolerant. Persistence depends on O-Antigen, a key constituent of the bacterial surface and serotype determinant. Representative isolates associated with MSM transmission persist in zebrafish, while representative isolates of a serotype not associated with MSM transmission do not. Isolates of a Shigella serotype establishing persistent infections elicited significantly less macrophage death in vivo than isolates of a serotype unable to establish persistence. We conclude that zebrafish are a valuable platform to illuminate factors underlying establishment of Shigella persistent infection in humans.

Keywords: Shigella flexneri; Shigella sonnei; O-Antigen; Persistent infection; Serotype; Zebrafish.