Tag: Papers

Published paper: The vaginal transcriptome

Last week, we published a paper which has been cooking for a long time. It is the result of years of hard work from particularly the first author – Tove Wikström – but also Sanna who did the bulk of the bioinformatic analysis with some help from me (well, I mostly contributed as a sounding board for ideas, but hopefully that was useful). The paper describes the gene expression of both the human host and the microbial community in the vagina during pregnancy and how the expressed genes (and the composition of bacteria) are linked to early births (1) and was published in Clinical and Translational Medicine.

We found 17 human genes potentially influencing preterm births. Most prominently the kallikrein genes (KLK2 and KLK3) and four different forms of of metallothioneins (MT1s) were higher in the preterm group than among fullterm women. These genes may be involved in inflammatory pathways associated with preterm birth.

We also found 11 bacterial species associated with preterm birth, but most of them had low occurrence and abundance. In contrary to some earlier studies, we saw no differences in bacterial diversity or richness between women who delivered preterm and women who delivered at term. Nor did Lactobacillus crispatus – often proposed to be protective against preterm birth (2,3) – seem to be a protective factor against preterm birth. However, most other studies have used DNA-based approaches to determine the bacterial community composition, while we used a metatranscriptomic approach looking at only expressed genes. In this context it is interesting that other metatranscriptomic results (4) agree with ours in that it was mainly microbes of low occurrence that differed between the preterm and term group.

Overall, the lack of clear differences in the transcriptionally active vaginal microbiome between women with term and preterm pregnancies, suggests that the metatranscriptome has a limited ability to serve as a diagnostic tool for identification of those at high risk for preterm delivery.

Great job Tove and the rest of the team! It was a pleasure working with all of you! The entire paper can be read here.

References

  1. Wikström T, Abrahamsson S, Bengtsson-Palme J, Ek CJ, Kuusela P, Rekabdar E, Lindgren P, Wennerholm UB, Jacobsson B, Valentin L, Hagberg H: Microbial and human transcriptome in vaginal fluid at midgestation: association with spontaneous preterm delivery. Clinical and Translational Medicine, 12, 9, e1023 (2022). doi: 10.1002/ctm2.1023 [Paper link]
  2. Kindinger LM, Bennett PR, Lee YS, et al.: The interaction between vaginal microbiota, cervical length, and vaginal progesterone treatment for preterm birth risk. Microbiome, 5, 1, 1-14 (2017).
  3. Tabatabaei N, Eren AM, Barreiro LB, et al.: Vaginal microbiome in early pregnancy and subsequent risk of spontaneous preterm birth: a case-control studyBJOG, 126, 3, 349-358 (2019).
  4. Fettweis JM, Serrano MG, Brooks JP, et al.: The vaginal microbiome and preterm birth. Nature Medicine, 25, 6, 1012-1021 (2019).

Published paper: Modeling antibiotic resistance gene emergence

Last week, a paper resulting from a collaboration with Stefanie Heß and Viktor Jonsson was published in Environmental Science & Technology. In the paper, we build a quantitative model for the emergence of antibiotic resistance genes in human pathogens and populate it using the few numbers that are available on different processes (bacterial uptake, horizontal gene transfer rates, rate of mobilization of chromosomal genes, etc.) in the literature (1).

In short, we find that in order for the environment to play an important role in the appearance of novel resistance genes in pathogens, there needs to be a substantial flow of bacteria from the environment to the human microbiome. We also find that most likely the majority of resistance genes in human pathogens have very small fitness costs associated with them, if any cost at all.

The model makes three important predictions:

  1. The majority of ARGs present in pathogens today should have very limited effects on fitness. The model caps the average fitness impact for ARGs currently present in human pathogens between −0.2 and +0.1% per generation. By determining the fitness effects of carrying individual ARGs in their current hosts, this prediction could be experimentally tested.
  2. The most likely location of ARGs 70 years ago would have been in human-associated bacteria. By tracking ARGs currently present in human pathogens across bacterial genomes, it may be possible to trace the evolutionary history of these genes and thereby identify their likely hosts at the beginning of the antibiotic era, similar to what was done by Stefan Ebmeyer and his colleagues (2). What they found sort-of corroborate the findings of our model and lend support to the idea that most ARGs may not originate in the environment. However, this analysis is complicated by the biased sampling of fully sequenced bacterial genomes, most of which originate from human specimens. That said, the rapid increase in sequencing capacity may make full-scale analysis of ARG origins using genomic data possible in the near future, which would enable testing of this prediction of the model.
  3. If the origins of ARGs currently circulating in pathogens can be established, the range of reasonable dispersal ability levels from the environment to pathogens narrows dramatically. Similarly, if the rates of mobilization and horizontal transfer of resistance genes could be better determined by experiments, the model would predict the likely origins more precisely. Just establishing a ball-park range for the mobilization rate would dramatically restrict the possible outcomes of the model. Thus, a more precise determination of any of these parameters would enable several more specific predictions by the model.

This paper has a quite interesting backstory, beginning with me having leftover time on a bus ride in Madison (WI), thinking about whether you could quantize the conceptual framework for resistance gene emergence we described in our 2018 review paper in FEMS Reviews Microbiology (3). This spurred the first attempt at such a model, which then led to Stefanie Heß and me applying for support from the Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research at the University of Gothenburg (CARe) to develop this idea further. We got this support and Stefanie spent a few days with me in Gothenburg developing this idea into a model we could implement in R.

However, at that point we realized we needed more modeling expertise and brought in Viktor Jonsson to make sure the model was robust. From there, it took us about 1.5 years to refine and rerun the model about a million times… By the early spring this year, we had a reasonable model that we could write a manuscript around, and this is what now is published. It’s been an interesting and very nice ride together with Stefanie and Viktor!

References

  1. Bengtsson-Palme J, Jonsson V, Heß S: What is the role of the environment in the emergence of novel antibiotic resistance genes? A modelling approach. Environmental Science & Technology, Article ASAP (2021). doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c02977 [Paper link]
  2. Ebmeyer S, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: A framework for identifying the recent origins of mobile antibiotic resistance genes. Communications Biology 4 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-01545-5
  3. Bengtsson-Palme J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Environmental factors influencing the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 42, 1, 68–80 (2018). doi: 10.1093/femsre/fux053 [Paper link]

13 papers published on antibiotics in feed

Last week, I published 13 (!!) papers in the EFSA Journal on how to assess concentrations of antibiotics that could select for antibiotic resistance in animal feed (1-13). Or, well, you could also look at it as that the EFSA Biohaz panel that I have been a part of for more than two years published our final 13-part report.

Regardless of how you view it, this set of papers have two main takeaways:

  1. We present a method to establish Predicted Minimal Selective Concentrations (PMSCs) for antibiotics. This method uses a combination of Dan Andersson’s approach to MSCs (14) and the method I published with Joakim Larsson around five years ago to establish predicted no-effect concentrations (PNECs) for antibiotics based on MIC data (15). The combination is a powerful (but very cautious) tool to estimate minimal selective concentrations for antibiotics (1), and we have subsequently applied this method to animal feed contamination with antibiotics, but…
  2. There is way too little data to establish PMSCs for most antibiotics with any certainty. Really, the lack of data is so bad that for many of the antibiotic classes we could not make a reasonable assessment. Thus the main conclusion might be that we need a lot more data on how low concentrations of antibiotics that select for antibiotic resistance, both in laboratory systems and in more realistic settings.

References

  1. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 1: Methodology, general data gaps and uncertainties. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6852 [Paper link]
  2. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 2: Aminoglycosides/aminocyclitols: apramycin, paromomycin, neomycin and spectinomycin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6853 [Paper link]
  3. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 3: Amprolium. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6854 [Paper link]
  4. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 4: ß-Lactams: amoxicillin and penicillin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6855 [Paper link]
  5. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 5: Lincosamides: lincomycin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6856 [Paper link]
  6. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 6: Macrolides: tilmicosin, tylosin and tylvalosin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6858 [Paper link]
  7. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 7: Amphenicols: florfenicol and thiamphenicol. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6859 [Paper link]
  8. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 8: Pleuromutilins: tiamulin and valnemulin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6860 [Paper link]
  9. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 9: Polymyxins: colistin. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6861 [Paper link]
  10. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 10: Quinolones: flumequine and oxolinic acid. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6862 [Paper link]
  11. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 11: Sulfonamides. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6863 [Paper link]
  12. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 12: Tetracycline, chlortetracycline, oxytetracycline, and doxycycline. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6864[Paper link]
  13. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ)*, Allende A, Koutsoumanis K, Alvarez-Ordóñez A, Bolton D, Bover-Cid S, Chemaly M, Davies R, De Cesare A, Herman L, Hilbert F, Lindqvist R, Nauta M, Ru G, Simmons M, Skandamis P, Suffredini E, Andersson DI, Bampidis V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Bouchard D, Ferran A, Kouba M, López Puente S, López-Alonso M, Saxmose Nielsen S, Pechová A, Petkova M, Girault S, Broglia A, Guerra B, Lorenzo Innocenti M, Liébana E, López-Gálvez G, Manini P, Stella P, Peixe L: Maximum levels of cross-contamination for 24 antimicrobial active substances in non-target feed. Part 13: Trimethoprim. EFSA Journal, 19, 10 (2021). doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6865 [Paper link]
  14. Gullberg E, Cao S, Berg OG, Ilbäck C, Sandegren L, Hughes D, et al.: Selection of resistant bacteria at very low antibiotic concentrations. PLoS Pathogens 7, e1002158 (2011). doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002158
  15. Bengtsson-Palme J, Larsson DGJ: Concentrations of antibiotics predicted to select for resistant bacteria: Proposed limits for environmental regulation. Environment International, 86, 140-149 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.10.015 [Paper link]

Published paper: Temperature affects community interactions

I am very happy to announce that Emil Burman‘s (doctoral student in the lab) first first-author paper was published today in Frontiers in Microbiology. In this paper (1), we explored how temperature affected the interactions in the model microbial community THOR (2). Somewhat surprisingly, we found that even a small difference in temperature changed the community intrinsic properties (3) of this model community a lot. We furthermore find that changes in growth rates of the members of the community partially explains the changed interaction patterns, but only to some extent. Finally, we also found that biofilm production overall was much higher at lower temperatures (9-15°C) than at room temperature, and that at around 25°C and above the community formed virtually no biofilm.

The temperature range we tested is not unlikely to be encountered when incubating the community in a thermally unregulated environment. Thus, our results show that a high degree of temperature control is crucial between experiments, particularly when reproducing results across different laboratories, equipment, and personnel. This highlights the need for standards and transparency in research on microbial model communities (4).

Another important, related, aspect is that disruptive factors that discriminate against single members of the community are not unique to THOR. Instead, this is likely to be the case for other microbial model (as well as natural communities). Since only a few of these model communities have been elucidated for community behaviors outside of specific culturing conditions they were first contrived under, this may severely limit our view of interactions between microbes to specific laboratory settings. This casts some doubt on the validity of extrapolation from results obtained from microbial model communities. It seems to be important moving forward to establish that community-intrinsic behaviors in model communities are stable in the face of variable environmental conditions, such as temperature, pH, nutrient availability, and initial inoculum size.

A short backstory to this paper: this begun when Emil could not consistently replicate the results I had obtained during my postdoc (working on THOR) in Prof. Jo Handelsman’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a long time of troubleshooting, we realized that our lab did not hold a stable room temperature. We bought a cold incubator, and – boom – after that the expected community behavior came back. This made us realize the importance of temperature for the community-intrinsic properties of THOR, which then led to this more systematic investigation.

Great work Emil! It is nice to finally see this in its published form. Read the entire paper (open access) here!

References

  1. Burman E, Bengtsson-Palme J: Microbial community interactions are sensitive to small differences in temperature. Frontiers in Microbiology, 12, 672910 (2021). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.672910
  2. Lozano GL, Bravo JI, Garavito Diago MF, Park HB, Hurley A, Peterson SB, Stabb EV, Crawford JM, Broderick NA, Handelsman J: Introducing THOR, a Model Microbiome for Genetic Dissection of Community Behavior. mBio, 10, 2, e02846-18 (2019). doi: 10.1128/mBio.02846-18
  3. Madsen JS, Sørensen SJ, Burmølle M: Bacterial social interactions and the emergence of community-intrinsic properties. Current Opinion in Microbiology 42, 104–109 (2018). doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2017.11.018
  4. Bengtsson-Palme J: Microbial model communities: To understand complexity, harness the power of simplicity. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, 18, 3987-4001 (2020). doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2020.11.043

Published paper: CAFE

We start the new year with a bang, or at least a new paper published. Bioinformatics put our paper (1) describing the software package CAFE online today (although it was accepted late last year). The CAFE package is a combination of Perl and R tools that can analyze data from paired transposon mutant sequencing experiments (2-4), generate fitness coefficients for each gene and condition, and perform appropriate statistical testing on these fitness coefficients. The paper is short, but shows that CAFE performs as good as the best competing tools (5-7) while being superior at controlling for false positives (you’ll have to dig into the supplement to find the data for that though).

Importantly, this is a collaborative effort by basically the entire research group from last spring: me, Haveela, Emil, Anna and our visiting student Adriana. A big thanks to all of you for working on this short but important paper! You can read the full paper here.

References

  1. Abramova A, Osińska A, Kunche H, Burman E, Bengtsson-Palme J (2021) CAFE: A software suite for analysis of paired-sample transposon insertion sequencing data. Bioinformatics, advance article doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btaa1086
  2. Chao,M.C. et al. (2016) The design and analysis of transposon insertion sequencing experiments. Nature reviews Microbiology, 14, 119–128.
  3. van Opijnen,T. and Camilli,A. (2013) Transposon insertion sequencing: a new tool for systems-level analysis of microorganisms. Nature reviews Microbiology, 11, 435–442.
  4. Goodman,A.L. et al. (2011) Identifying microbial fitness determinants by insertion sequencing using genome-wide transposon mutant libraries. Nature Protocols, 6, 1969–1980.
  5. McCoy,K.M. et al. (2017) MAGenTA: a Galaxy implemented tool for complete Tn- Seq analysis and data visualization. Bioinformatics, 33, 2781– 2783.
  6. Zhao,L. et al. (2017) TnseqDiff: identification of conditionally essential genes in transposon sequencing studies. BMC Bioinformatics, 18.
  7. Zomer,A. et al. (2012) ESSENTIALS: Software for Rapid Analysis of High Throughput Transposon Insertion Sequencing Data. PLoS ONE, 7, e43012.

Published paper: Microbial model communities

This week, in a stroke of luck coinciding with my conference presentation on the same topic, my review paper on microbial model communities came out in Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal. The paper (1) provides an overview of the existing microbial model communities that have been developed for different purposes and makes some recommendations on when to use what kind of community. I also make a deep-dive into community intrinsic-properties and how to capture and understand how microbes growing together interact in a way that is not predictable from how they grow in isolation.

The main take-home messages of the paper are that 1) there already exists a quite diverse range of microbial model communities – we probably don’t need a wealth of additional model systems, 2) there need to be better standardization and description of the exact protocols used – this is more important in multi-species communities than when species are grown in isolation, and 3) the researchers working with microbial model communities need to settle on a ‘gold standard’ set of model communities, as well as common definitions, terms and frameworks, or the complexity of the universe of model systems itself may throw a wrench into the research made using these model systems.

The paper was inspired by the work I did in Jo Handelsman‘s lab on the THOR model community (2), which I then have brought with me to the University of Gothenburg. In the lab, we are also setting up other model systems for microbial interactions, and in this process I thought it would be useful to make an overview of what is already out there. And that overview then became this review paper.

The paper is fully open-access, so there is really not much need to go into the details here. Go and read the entire thing instead (or just get baffled by Table 1, listing the communities that are already out there!)

References

  1. Bengtsson-Palme J: Microbial model communities: To understand complexity, harness the power of simplicity. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, in press (2020). doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2020.11.043
  2. Lozano GL, Bravo JI, Garavito Diago MF, Park HB, Hurley A, Peterson SB, Stabb EV, Crawford JM, Broderick NA, Handelsman J: Introducing THOR, a Model Microbiome for Genetic Dissection of Community Behavior. mBio, 10, 2, e02846-18 (2019). doi: 10.1128/mBio.02846-18

FEMS Microbiology Reviews Award

We have been awarded with the first best article award from FEMS Microbiology Reviews for our 2018 review Environmental factors influencing the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. I and my co-authors Joakim Larsson and Erik Kristiansson are honoured and – of course – very happy with this recognition of our work. I was interviewed in relation to the prize, an interview that can be read here. But, also, the paper is open access, so you can go and check it all out in its full glory right now!

Published paper: benchmarking resistance gene identification

Since F1000Research uses a somewhat different publication scheme than most journals, I still haven’t understood if this paper is formally published after peer review, but I start to assume it is. There have been very little changes since the last version, so hence I will be lazy and basically repost what I wrote in April when the first version (the “preprint”) was posted online. The paper (1) is the result of a workshop arranged by the JRC in Italy in 2017. It describes various challenges arising from the process of designing a benchmark strategy for bioinformatics pipelines in the identification of antimicrobial resistance genes in next generation sequencing data.

The paper discusses issues about the benchmarking datasets used, testing samples, evaluation criteria for the performance of different tools, and how the benchmarking dataset should be created and distributed. Specially, we address the following questions:

  • How should a benchmark strategy handle the current and expanding universe of NGS platforms?
  • What should be the quality profile (in terms of read length, error rate, etc.) of in silico reference materials?
  • Should different sets of reference materials be produced for each platform? In that case, how to ensure no bias is introduced in the process?
  • Should in silico reference material be composed of the output of real experiments, or simulated read sets? If a combination is used, what is the optimal ratio?
  • How is it possible to ensure that the simulated output has been simulated “correctly”?
  • For real experiment datasets, how to avoid the presence of sensitive information?
  • Regarding the quality metrics in the benchmark datasets (e.g. error rate, read quality), should these values be fixed for all datasets, or fall within specific ranges? How wide can/should these ranges be?
  • How should the benchmark manage the different mechanisms by which bacteria acquire resistance?
  • What is the set of resistance genes/mechanisms that need to be included in the benchmark? How should this set be agreed upon?
  • Should datasets representing different sample types (e.g. isolated clones, environmental samples) be included in the same benchmark?
  • Is a correct representation of different bacterial species (host genomes) important?
  • How can the “true” value of the samples, against which the pipelines will be evaluated, be guaranteed?
  • What is needed to demonstrate that the original sample has been correctly characterised, in case real experiments are used?
  • How should the target performance thresholds (e.g. specificity, sensitivity, accuracy) for the benchmark suite be set?
  • What is the impact of these performance thresholds on the required size of the sample set?
  • How can the benchmark stay relevant when new resistance mechanisms are regularly characterized?
  • How is the continued quality of the benchmark dataset ensured?
  • Who should generate the benchmark resource?
  • How can the benchmark resource be efficiently shared?

Of course, we have not answered all these questions, but I think we have come down to a decent description of the problems, which we see as an important foundation for solving these issues and implementing the benchmarking standard. Some of these issues were tackled in our review paper from last year on using metagenomics to study resistance genes in microbial communities (2). The paper also somewhat connects to the database curation paper we published in 2016 (3), although this time the strategies deal with the testing datasets rather than the actual databases. The paper is the first outcome of the workshop arranged by the JRC on “Next-generation sequencing technologies and antimicrobial resistance” held October 4-5 2017 in Ispra, Italy. You can find the paper here (it’s open access).

On another note, the new paper describing the UNITE database (4) has now got a formal issue assigned to it, as has the paper on tandem repeat barcoding in fungi published in Molecular Ecology Resources last year (5).

References and notes

  1. Angers-Loustau A, Petrillo M, Bengtsson-Palme J, Berendonk T, Blais B, Chan KG, Coque TM, Hammer P, Heß S, Kagkli DM, Krumbiegel C, Lanza VF, Madec J-Y, Naas T, O’Grady J, Paracchini V, Rossen JWA, Ruppé E, Vamathevan J, Venturi V, Van den Eede G: The challenges of designing a benchmark strategy for bioinformatics pipelines in the identification of antimicrobial resistance determinants using next generation sequencing technologies. F1000Research, 7, 459 (2018). doi: 10.12688/f1000research.14509.1
  2. Bengtsson-Palme J, Larsson DGJ, Kristiansson E: Using metagenomics to investigate human and environmental resistomes. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 72, 2690–2703 (2017). doi: 10.1093/jac/dkx199
  3. Bengtsson-Palme J, Boulund F, Edström R, Feizi A, Johnning A, Jonsson VA, Karlsson FH, Pal C, Pereira MB, Rehammar A, Sánchez J, Sanli K, Thorell K: Strategies to improve usability and preserve accuracy in biological sequence databases. Proteomics, 16, 18, 2454–2460 (2016). doi: 10.1002/pmic.201600034
  4. Nilsson RH, Larsson K-H, Taylor AFS, Bengtsson-Palme J, Jeppesen TS, Schigel D, Kennedy P, Picard K, Glöckner FO, Tedersoo L, Saar I, Kõljalg U, Abarenkov K: The UNITE database for molecular identification of fungi: handling dark taxa and parallel taxonomic classifications. Nucleic Acids Research, 47, D1, D259–D264 (2019). doi: 10.1093/nar/gky1022
  5. Wurzbacher C, Larsson E, Bengtsson-Palme J, Van den Wyngaert S, Svantesson S, Kristiansson E, Kagami M, Nilsson RH: Introducing ribosomal tandem repeat barcoding for fungi. Molecular Ecology Resources, 19, 1, 118–127 (2019). doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12944

Published paper: Diarrhea-causing bacteria in the Choqueyapu River in Bolivia

My first original paper of the year was just published in PLoS ONE. This is a collaboration with Åsa Sjöling’s group at the Karolinska Institute and the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in Bolivia, and the project has been largely run by Jessica Guzman-Otazo.

Poor drinking water quality is a major cause of diarrhea, especially in the absence of well-working sewage treatment systems. In the study, we investigate the numbers of bacteria causing diarrhea (or actually, marker genes for those bacteria) in water, soil and vegetable samples from the Choqueyapu River area in La Paz – Bolivia’s third largest city (1). The river receives sewage and wastewater from industries and hospitals while flowing through La Paz. We found that levels of ETEC – a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea – were much higher in the city than upstream of it, including at a site where the river water is used for irrigation of crops.

In addition, several multi-resistant bacteria could be isolated from the samples, of which many were emerging, globally spreading, multi-resistant variants. The results of the study indicate that there is a real risk for spreading of diarrheal diseases by using the contaminated water for drinking and irrigation (2,3). Furthermore, the identification of multi-resistant bacteria that can cause human diseases show that water contamination is an important route through which antibiotic resistance can be transferred from the environment back to humans (4).

The study was published in PLoS ONE and can be found here.

References

  1. Guzman-Otazo J, Gonzales-Siles L, Poma V, Bengtsson-Palme J, Thorell K, Flach C-F, Iñiguez V, Sjöling Å: Diarrheal bacterial pathogens and multi-resistant enterobacteria in the Choqueyapu River in La Paz, Bolivia. PLoS ONE, 14, 1, e0210735 (2019). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210735
  2. Graham DW, Collignon P, Davies J, Larsson DGJ, Snape J: Underappreciated Role of Regionally Poor Water Quality on Globally Increasing Antibiotic Resistance. Environ Sci Technol 141001154428000 (2014). doi: 10.1021/es504206x
  3. Bengtsson-Palme J: Antibiotic resistance in the food supply chain: Where can sequencing and metagenomics aid risk assessment? Current Opinion in Food Science, 14, 66–71 (2017). doi: 10.1016/j.cofs.2017.01.010
  4. Bengtsson-Palme J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Environmental factors influencing the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 42, 1, 68–80 (2018). doi: 10.1093/femsre/fux053

Published paper: The UNITE database

In the 2019 database issue, Nucleic Acids Research will include a new paper on the UNITE database for molecular identification of fungi (1). I have been involved in the development of UNITE in different ways since 2012, most prominently via the ITSx (2) and Atosh software which are ticking under the hood of the database.

In this update paper, we introduce a redesigned handling of unclassifiable species hypotheses, integration with the taxonomic backbone of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and support for an unlimited number of parallel taxonomic classification systems. The database now contains around one million fungal ITS sequences that can be used for reference, which are clustered into roughly 459,000 species hypotheses (3). Each species hypothesis is assigned a digital object identifier (DOI), which enables unambiguous reference across studies. The paper is available as open access and the UNITE database is available open source from here.

References

  1. Nilsson RH, Larsson K-H, Taylor AFS, Bengtsson-Palme J, Jeppesen TS, Schigel D, Kennedy P, Picard K, Glöckner FO, Tedersoo L, Saar I, Kõljalg U, Abarenkov K: The UNITE database for molecular identification of fungi: handling dark taxa and parallel taxonomic classifications. Nucleic Acids Research, Advance article, gky1022 (2018). doi: 10.1093/nar/gky1022
  2. Bengtsson-Palme J, Ryberg M, Hartmann M, Branco S, Wang Z, Godhe A, De Wit P, Sánchez-García M, Ebersberger I, de Souza F, Amend AS, Jumpponen A, Unterseher M, Kristiansson E, Abarenkov K, Bertrand YJK, Sanli K, Eriksson KM, Vik U, Veldre V, Nilsson RH: Improved software detection and extraction of ITS1 and ITS2 from ribosomal ITS sequences of fungi and other eukaryotes for use in environmental sequencing. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4, 10, 914–919 (2013). doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12073
  3. Kõljalg U, Nilsson RH, Abarenkov K, Tedersoo L, Taylor AFS, Bahram M, Bates ST, Bruns TT, Bengtsson-Palme J, Callaghan TM, Douglas B, Drenkhan T, Eberhardt U, Dueñas M, Grebenc T, Griffith GW, Hartmann M, Kirk PM, Kohout P, Larsson E, Lindahl BD, Lücking R, Martín MP, Matheny PB, Nguyen NH, Niskanen T, Oja J, Peay KG, Peintner U, Peterson M, Põldmaa K, Saag L, Saar I, Schüßler A, Senés C, Smith ME, Suija A, Taylor DE, Telleria MT, Weiß M, Larsson KH: Towards a unified paradigm for sequence-based identification of Fungi. Molecular Ecology, 22, 21, 5271–5277 (2013). doi: 10.1111/mec.12481