Hyper-Recombination, Diversity, and Antibiotic Resistance in Pneumococcus

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Abstract

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a pathogen of global importance that frequently transfers genetic material between strains and on occasion across species boundaries. In an analysis of 1930 pneumococcal genotypes from six housekeeping genes and 94 genotypes from related species, we identified mosaic genotypes representing admixture between populations and found that these were significantly associated with resistance to several classes of antibiotics. We hypothesize that these observations result from a history of hyper-recombination, which means that these strains are more likely to acquire both divergent genetic material and resistance determinants. This could have consequences for the reemergence of drug resistance after pneumococcal vaccination and also for our understanding of diversification and speciation in recombinogenic bacteria.

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