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  1. Semrau, Jeremy D. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are opportunistic pathogens that cause chronic pulmonary disease (PD). NTM infections are thought to be acquired from the environment; however, the basal environmental factors that drive and sustain NTM prevalence are not well understood. The highest prevalence of NTM PD cases in the United States is reported from Hawai’i, which is unique in its climate and soil composition, providing an opportunity to investigate the environmental drivers of NTM prevalence. We used microbiological sampling and spatial logistic regression complemented with fine-scale soil mineralogy to model the probability of NTM presence across the natural landscape of Hawai’i. Over 7 years, we collected and microbiologically cultured 771 samples from 422 geographic sites in natural areas across the Hawaiian Islands for the presence of NTM. NTM were detected in 210 of these samples (27%), with Mycobacterium abscessus being the most frequently isolated species. The probability of NTM presence was highest in expansive soils (those that swell with water) with a high water balance (>1-m difference between rainfall and evapotranspiration) and rich in Fe-oxides/hydroxides. We observed a positive association between NTM presence and iron in wet soils, supporting past studies, but no such association in dry soils. High soil-water balance may facilitate underground movement of NTM into the aquifer system, potentially compounded by expansive capabilities allowing crack formation under drought conditions, representing further possible avenues for aquifer infiltration. These results suggest both precipitation and soil properties are mechanisms by which surface NTM may reach the human water supply. IMPORTANCE Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous in the environment, being found commonly in soils and natural bodies of freshwater. However, little is known about the environmental niches of NTM and how they relate to NTM prevalence in homes and other human-dominated areas. To characterize NTM environmental associations, we collected and cultured 771 samples from 422 geographic sites in natural areas across Hawai’i, the U.S. state with the highest prevalence of NTM pulmonary disease. We show that the environmental niches of NTM are most associated with highly expansive, moist soils containing high levels of iron oxides/hydroxides. Understanding the factors associated with NTM presence in the natural environment will be crucial for identifying potential mechanisms and risk factors associated with NTM infiltration into water supplies, which are ultimately piped into homes where most exposure risk is thought to occur. 
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  2. Abstract

    Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are environmentally acquired opportunistic pathogens that can cause chronic lung disease. Within the U.S., Hawai'i shows the highest prevalence rates of NTM lung infections. Here, we investigated a potential role for active volcanism at the Kīlauea Volcano located on Hawai'i Island in promoting NTM growth and diversity. We recovered NTM that are known to cause lung disease from plumbing biofilms and soils collected from the Kīlauea environment. We also discovered viableMycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium abscessus, andMycobacterium intracellularesubsp.chimaeraon volcanic ash collected during the 2018 Kīlauea eruption. Analysis of soil samples showed that NTM prevalence is positively associated with bulk content of phosphorus, sulfur, and total organic carbon. In growth assays, we showed that phosphorus utilization is essential for proliferation of Kīlauea‐derived NTM, and demonstrate that NTM cultured with volcanic ash adhere to ash surfaces and remain viable. Ambient dust collected on O'ahu concurrent with the 2018 eruption contained abundant fresh volcanic glass, suggestive of inter‐island ash transport. Phylogenomic analyses using whole genome sequencing revealed that Kīlauea‐derived NTM are genetically similar to respiratory isolates identified on other Hawaiian Islands. Consequently, we posit that volcanic eruptions could redistribute environmental microorganisms over large scales. While additional studies are needed to confirm a direct role of ash in NTM dispersal, our results suggest that volcanic particulates harbor and can redistribute NTM and should therefore be studied as a fomite for these burgeoning, environmentally acquired respiratory infections.

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  5. Alexandre, Gladys (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Environmental nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), with the potential to cause opportunistic lung infections, can reside in soil. This might be particularly relevant in Hawai’i, a geographic hot spot for NTM infections and whose soil composition differs from many other areas of the world. Soil components are likely to contribute to NTM prevalence in certain niches as food sources or attachment scaffolds, but the particular types of soils, clays, and minerals that impact NTM growth are not well-defined. Hawai’i soil and chemically weathered rock (saprolite) samples were examined to characterize the microbiome and quantify 11 mineralogical features as well as soil pH. Machine learning methods were applied to identify important soil features influencing the presence of NTM. Next, these features were directly tested in vitro by incubating synthetic clays and minerals in the presence of Mycobacteroides abscessus and Mycobacterium chimaera isolates recovered from the Hawai'i environment, and changes in bacterial growth were determined. Of the components examined, synthetic gibbsite, a mineral form of aluminum hydroxide, inhibited the growth of both M. abscessus and M. chimaera , while other minerals tested showed differential effects on each species. For example, M. abscessus (but not M. chimaera ) growth was significantly higher in the presence of hematite, an iron oxide mineral. In contrast, M. chimaera (but not M. abscessus ) counts were significantly reduced in the presence of birnessite, a manganese-containing mineral. These studies shed new light on the mineralogic features that promote or inhibit the presence of Hawai’i NTM in Hawai’i soil. IMPORTANCE Globally and in the United States, the prevalence of NTM pulmonary disease—a potentially life-threatening but underdiagnosed chronic illness—is prominently rising. While NTM are ubiquitous in the environment, including in soil, the specific soil components that promote or inhibit NTM growth have not been elucidated. We hypothesized that NTM culture-positive soil contains minerals that promote NTM growth in vitro . Because Hawai’i is a hot spot for NTM and a unique geographic archipelago, we examined the composition of Hawai’i soil and identified individual clay, iron, and manganese minerals associated with NTM. Next, individual components were evaluated for their ability to directly modulate NTM growth in culture. In general, gibbsite and some manganese oxides were shown to decrease NTM, whereas iron-containing minerals were associated with higher NTM counts. These data provide new information to guide future analyses of soil-associated factors impacting persistence of these soil bacteria. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Abstract

    Quantifying the routing of snowmelt to surface water is critical for predicting the impacts of atmospheric deposition and changing land use on water quality in montane catchments. To investigate solute sources and streamflow in the montane Provo River watershed (Utah, USA), we used time‐series87Sr/86Sr ratios sampled at three sites (Soapstone, Woodland and Hailstone) across a gradient of bedrock types. Soils are influenced by aeolian dust contributions, with distinct87Sr/86Sr ratios relative to siliciclastic bedrock, providing an opportunity to investigate shallow versus deeper flow paths for controlling water chemistry. At the most upstream site (Soapstone), Sr concentrations averaged ~17 μg/L with minimal dilution during snowmelt suggesting subsurface flow paths dominated streamflow. However, a decrease in87Sr/86Sr ratios from ~0.717 during baseflow to as low as ~0.713 during snowmelt indicated the activation of shallow flow paths through dust‐derived soils. In contrast, downstream sites receiving water inputs from Sr‐rich carbonate bedrock (Woodland and Hailstone) exhibited strong dilution of Sr from ~120 to 20 μg/L and an increase in87Sr/86Sr ratios from ~0.7095 to ~0.712 during snowmelt. A three‐component mixing model using87Sr/86Sr ratios and Sr concentrations at Soapstone showed water inputs were dominated by direct snowmelt and flushed soil water during runoff and groundwater during baseflow. At Woodland and Hailstone, a two‐component mixing model showed that the river was a mixture of groundwater and up to 75% upstream channel water during snowmelt. Our findings highlight the importance of flushed soil water for controlling stream water discharge and chemistry during snowmelt, with the signal from the upstream site propagating downstream in a nested catchment. Further, aeolian dust contributes to the solute chemistry of montane streams with potential impacts on water quality along shallow flow paths. Potential contaminants in these surface soils (e.g., Pb deposition in dust) may have significant impacts on water quality during snowmelt runoff.

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