Evidence for soft selective sweeps in the evolution of pneumococcal multidrug resistance and vaccine escape

Nicholas J. Croucher, Claire Chewapreecha, William P. Hanage, Simon R. Harris, Lesley McGee, Mark Van Der Linden, Jae Hoon Song, Kwan Soo Ko, Herminia Garcez Lencastre, Claudia Turner, Fan Yang, Raquel Sa-Leao, Bernard Beall, Keith P. Klugman, Julian Parkhill, Paul Turner, Stephen D. Bentley

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66 Citations (Scopus)


Themultidrug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae Taiwan19F-14, orPMEN14, clone was first observed with a 19F serotype, which is targeted by the heptavalent polysaccharide conjugate vaccine (PCV7). However, "vaccine escape" PMEN14 isolates with a 19A serotype became an increasingly important cause of disease post-PCV7. Whole genome sequencing was used to characterize the recent evolution of 173 pneumococci of, or related to,PMEN14. This suggested that PMEN14is a single lineage that originated in the late 1980s in parallel with the acquisition of multiple resistances by close relatives. One of the four detected serotype switches to 19A generated representatives of the sequence type (ST) 320 isolates that have been highly successful post-PCV7. A second produced an ST236 19A genotype with reduced resistance to b-lactams owing to alteration of pbp1a and pbp2x sequences through the same recombination that caused the change in serotype.Athird, which generated amosaic capsule biosynthesis locus, resulted in serotype 19AST271 isolates. The rapid diversification through homologous recombination seen in the global collectionwas similarly observed in the absence of vaccination in a set of isolates from theMaela refugeecampin Thailand, a collection that also allowed variation to be observed within carriage through longitudinal sampling. This suggests that some pneumococcal genotypes generate a pool of standing variation that is sufficiently extensive to result in "soft" selective sweeps: The emergence of multiple mutants in parallel upon a change in selection pressure, such as vaccine introduction. The subsequent competition between thesemutants makes this phenomenon difficult to detect without deep sampling of individual lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1602
Number of pages14
JournalGenome Biology And Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Bacterial evolution
  • Phylogenomics
  • Recombination
  • Selective sweeps
  • Vaccine escape


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