Genetic investigations of pneumocystis jirovecii : detection, cotrimoxazole resistance and population structure

Robberts, Frans Jacob Lourens (2005-12)

Thesis (PhD (Pathology. Medical Microbiology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


Pneumocystis jirovecii is a significant contributor to the burden of disease in immunocompromised patients. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is more sensitive and specific than microscopy. Cotrimoxazole prophylactic breakthrough and treatment failures have been reported, and associated with mutations at codons 55 and 57 of P. jirovecii dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS). No phylogenetic or population genetic models have been successful in elucidating P. jirovecii intraspecies strain relatedness. Aims: 1) Compare detection rates of nine PCR techniques and immunofluorescence microscopy (IF); 2) Determine the extent of co-infecting pathogens associated with Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PcP); 3) Determine local P. jirovecii ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 rDNA strain types, and model lineage evolution employing a coalescent-theory based statistical parsimony network analysis; 4) Investigate the possible emergence of cotrimoxazole-resistant strains Methods: PCR was evaluated on clinical specimens employing: ITS nested; DHPS single and nested; DHFR nested; major surface glycoprotein (MSG) heminested; mitochondrial large subunit rRNA (mtLSUrRNA) single and nested; 18S rRNA onetube nested, and real-time 5S rRNA PCR. Retrospective analysis of co-infecting pathogens seen in PcP patients was conducted. ITS regions were amplified, cloned and sequenced. Statistical parsimony was applied for coalescence based network genotype analysis. DHPS genome walking was attempted and DHPS and DHFR primer annealing sites explored. Amplified DHPS and DHFR genes were cloned and sequenced. Results: Most sensitive PCR technique was mtLSUrRNA nested followed by 5S realtime PCR. A poor correlation exist between mtLSUrRNA PCR and IF. Review of clinical records suggested a high rate of false-positive IF results. P. jirovecii was detected in 4.3% M. tuberculosis-positive HIV-positive, and 2.5% M. tuberculosispositive HIV-negative patients. P. jirovecii was detected in 45% HIV-negative patients. The most prevalent ITS type was Eg. Four new combinations: Eo, Je, Ge, No; 11 new ITS1 and 13 new ITS2 sequences were identified. A new ITS2 type was detected in three patients and designated u. More than one strain type was detected in 15/19 patients. Analysis of 5.8SrDNA region revealed 13 clones containing 1-2 nucleotide polymorphisms. Of 85 mtLSUrRNA PCR-positive specimens, currently employed primers amplified DHPS and DHFR genes from 53 and 27 specimens, respectively. Newly designed DHPS primers increased detection in 3 / 28 previously DHPS-negative mtLSUrRNA-positive specimens. Of 56 DHPS genes amplified and sequenced, one contained the double mutation (Thr55Aa; Pro57Ser). DHFR Ala67Val was detected in three specimens and a new DHFR genotype (Arg59Gly; C278T) was demonstrated. Conclusions: The study emphasises the need to evaluate PCR primers against local strains. It is recommended that mtLSUrRNA PCR be performed in parallel to IF and discordant results resolved with clinical evaluation. Co-infection with P. jirovecii and M. tuberculosis occurs in South Africa, and treatment for both pathogens is recommended when demonstrated by the laboratory. ITS genotyping employing statistical parsimony network analysis suggests type Eg as major ancestral haplotype, and supports recombination contributing to strain diversity worldwide. DHPS mutations may signal emergence of resistance to cotrimoxazole in South Africa, however, low sensitivity of primers limits surveillance efforts.

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