- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Semrau, Jeremy D.
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Applied and Environmental Microbiology
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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As environmental opportunistic pathogens, nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) can cause severe and difficult to treat pulmonary disease. In the United States, Hawai’i has the highest prevalence of infection. Rapid growing mycobacteria (RGM) such as
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Sharma, Divakar (Ed.)
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous environmental opportunistic pathogens that can cause chronic lung disease. Within the United States, Hawai’i has the highest incidence of NTM lung disease, though the precise reasons are yet to be fully elucidated. One possibility is the high prevalence of NTM in the Hawai’i environment acting as a potential reservoir for opportunistic NTM infections. Through our previous initiatives to collect and characterize NTM in Hawai’i, community scientists of Hawai’i have collected thousands of environmental samples for sequencing. Here, these community scientists were invited for the first time into a high school lab in O’ahu for a genomic sequencing workshop, where participants sequenced four of the collected isolate genomic samples using the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION sequencer. Participants generated high quality long read data that when combined with short read Illumina data yielded complete bacterial genomic assemblies suitable for in-depth analysis. The gene annotation analysis identified a suite of genes that might help NTM thrive in the Hawai’i environment. Further, we found evidence of co-occurring methylobacteria, revealed from the sequencing data, suggesting that in some cases methylobacteria and NTM may coexist in the same niche, challenging previously accepted paradigms. The sequencing efforts presented here generated novel insights regarding the potential survival strategies and microbial interactions of NTM in the geographic hot spot of Hawai’i. We highlight the contributions of community scientists and present an activity that can be reimplemented as a workshop or classroom activity by other research groups to engage their local communities.
ABSTRACT Bacteria within the genus Mycobacterium can be abundant in showerheads, and the inhalation of aerosolized mycobacteria while showering has been implicated as a mode of transmission in nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infections. Despite their importance, the diversity, distributions, and environmental predictors of showerhead-associated mycobacteria remain largely unresolved. To address these knowledge gaps, we worked with citizen scientists to collect showerhead biofilm samples and associated water chemistry data from 656 households located across the United States and Europe. Our cultivation-independent analyses revealed that the genus Mycobacterium was consistently the most abundant genus of bacteria detected in residential showerheads, and yet mycobacterial diversity and abundances were highly variable. Mycobacteria were far more abundant, on average, in showerheads receiving municipal water than in those receiving well water and in U.S. households than in European households, patterns that are likely driven by differences in the use of chlorine disinfectants. Moreover, we found that water source, water chemistry, and household location also influenced the prevalence of specific mycobacterial lineages detected in showerheads. We identified geographic regions within the United States where showerheads have particularly high abundances of potentially pathogenic lineages of mycobacteria, and these “hot spots” generally overlapped those regions where NTM lung disease is most prevalent. Together, these results emphasize the public health relevance of mycobacteria in showerhead biofilms. They further demonstrate that mycobacterial distributions in showerhead biofilms are often predictable from household location and water chemistry, knowledge that advances our understanding of NTM transmission dynamics and the development of strategies to reduce exposures to these emerging pathogens. IMPORTANCE Bacteria thrive in showerheads and throughout household water distribution systems. While most of these bacteria are innocuous, some are potential pathogens, including members of the genus Mycobacterium that can cause nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infection, an increasing threat to public health. We found that showerheads in households across the United States and Europe often harbor abundant mycobacterial communities that vary in composition depending on geographic location, water chemistry, and water source, with households receiving water treated with chlorine disinfectants having particularly high abundances of certain mycobacteria. The regions in the United States where NTM lung infections are most common were the same regions where pathogenic mycobacteria were most prevalent in showerheads, highlighting the important role of showerheads in the transmission of NTM infections.more » « less