In East Greenland, a dramatic increase of tuberculosis (TB) incidence has been observed in recent years. Classical genotyping suggests a genetically similar Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) strain population as cause, however, precise transmission patterns are unclear. We performed whole genome sequencing (WGS) of Mtb isolates from 98% of culture-positive TB cases through 21?years (n?=?182) which revealed four genomic clusters of the Euro-American lineage (mainly sub-lineage 4.8 (n?=?134)). The time to the most recent common ancestor of lineage 4.8 strains was found to be 100?years. This sub-lineage further diversified in the 1970s, and massively expanded in the 1990s, a period of lowered TB awareness in Greenland. Despite the low genetic strain diversity, WGS data revealed several recent short-term transmission events in line with the increasing incidence in the region. Thus, the isolated setting and the uniformity of circulating Mtb strains indicated that the majority of East Greenlandic TB cases originated from one or few strains introduced within the last century. Thereby, the study shows the consequences of even short interruptions in TB control efforts in previously TB high incidence areas and demonstrates the potential role of WGS in detecting ongoing micro epidemics, thus guiding public health efforts in the future.
Cites: Int J Circumpolar Health. 2004;63 Suppl 2:221-4 PMID 15736656