European 1: A globally important clonal complex of Mycobacterium bovis
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We have identified a globally important clonal complex of Mycobacterium bovis by deletion analysis of over one thousand strains from over 30 countries. We initially show that over 99% of the strains of M. bovis, the cause of bovine tuberculosis, isolated from cattle in the Republic of Ireland and the UK are closely related and are members of a single clonal complex marked by the deletion of chromosomal region RDEu1 and we named this clonal complex European 1 (Eu1). Eu1 strains were present at less than 14% of French, Portuguese and Spanish isolates of M. bovis but are rare in other mainland European countries and Iran. However, strains of the Eu1 clonal complex were found at high frequency in former trading partners of the UK (USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada). The Americas, with the exception of Brazil, are dominated by the Eu1 clonal complex which was at high frequency in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico as well as North America. Eu1 was rare or absent in the African countries surveyed except South Africa. A small sample of strains from Taiwan were non-Eu1 but, surprisingly, isolates from Korea and Kazakhstan were members of the Eu1 clonal complex. The simplest explanation for much of the current distribution of the Eu1 clonal complex is that it was spread in infected cattle, such as Herefords, from the UK to former trading partners, although there is evidence of secondary dispersion since. This is the first identification of a globally dispersed clonal complex M. bovis and indicates that much of the current global distribution of this important veterinary pathogen has resulted from relatively recent International trade in cattle.