Reis, A.C., Tenreiro, R., Albuquerque, T. ..., Cunha, M.V., et al. (2020) Long-term molecular surveillance provides clues on a cattle origin for Mycobacterium bovis in Portugal.Scientific Reports, 10, 20856. DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-77713-8 (IF2020 4,379; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
Animal tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, is maintained in Portugal in a multi-host system, with cattle, red deer and wild boar, playing a central role. However, the ecological processes driving transmission are not understood. The main aim of this study was thus to contribute to the reconstruction of the spatiotemporal history of animal TB and to refine knowledge on M. bovis population structure in order to inform novel intervention strategies. A collection of 948 M. bovis isolates obtained during long-term surveillance (2002–2016, 15 years) of cattle (n = 384), red deer (n = 303) and wild boar (n = 261), from the main TB hotspot areas, was characterized by spoligotyping and 8 to 12-loci MIRU-VNTR. Spoligotyping identified 64 profiles and MIRU-VNTR distinguished 2 to 36 subtypes within each spoligotype, enabling differentiation of mixed or clonal populations. Common genotypic profiles within and among livestock and wildlife in the same spatiotemporal context highlighted epidemiological links across hosts and regions, as for example the SB0119-M205 genotype shared by cattle in Beja district or SB0121-M34 shared by the three hosts in Castelo Branco and Beja districts. These genomic data, together with metadata, were integrated in a Bayesian inference framework, identifying five ancestral M. bovis populations. The phylogeographic segregation of M. bovis in specific areas of Portugal where the disease persists locally is postulated. Concurrently, robust statistics indicates an association of the most probable ancient population with cattle and Beja, providing a clue on the origin of animal TB epidemics. This relationship was further confirmed through a multinomial probability model that assessed the influence of host species on spatiotemporal clustering. Two significant clusters were identified, one that persisted between 2004 and 2010, in Beja district, with Barrancos county at the centre, overlapping the central TB core area of the Iberian Peninsula, and highlighting a significant higher risk associated to cattle. The second cluster was predominant in the 2012–2016 period, holding the county Rosmaninhal at the centre, in Castelo Branco district, for which wild boar contributed the most in relative risk. These results provide novel quantitative insights beyond empirical perceptions, that may inform adaptive TB control choices in different regions.