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Original research
Characterisation of the novel clinical isolate X-4 containing a new tp0548 sequence-type


Objectives A novel tp0548 sequence-type was identified in one clinical isolate (X-4) from a patient diagnosed with primary syphilis in Xiamen, China. To precisely define and characterise a new clinical isolate, we performed further genome-scale molecular analysis.

Methods The pooled segment genome sequencing method followed by Illumina sequencing was performed.

Results This novel sequence-type contained a unique nucleotide substitution ‘T’ at position 167 and belonged to the SS14-like clade of TPA strains, as determined by phylogenetic analysis. Multi-locus sequence analysis of nine chromosomal loci demonstrated that the X-4 isolate was clustered within a monophyletic group of TPA strains. Whole-genome phylogenetic analysis subsequently corroborated the TPA strain classification of the X-4 isolate and revealed that the isolate was closely related to the SS14 strain, with 42 single-nucleotide variations and 12 insertions/deletions. In addition, high intrastrain heterogeneity in the length of the poly G/C tracts was found in the TPAChi_0347 locus, which might indicate that this gene of the X-4 isolate is likely involved in phase variation events. The length heterogeneity of the poly A/T tracts was lower than the genetic variability of the poly G/C tracts, and all the observed intrastrain variations fell within coding regions.

Conclusion The novel tp0548 sequence-type was determined to belong to a new TPA isolate, X-4. The identification of variable length in homopolymetic tracts (G/C and A/T) could provide a snapshot of the genes that potentially involved in genotype–phenotype variations. These findings provide an unequivocal characterisation for better understanding the molecular variation of this emerging isolate.

  • molecular typing
  • syphilis
  • molecular genetics

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