Molecular epidemiology and drug resistance patterns of mycobacterium tuberculosis complex isolates from university students and the local community in Eastern Ethiopia

Abiyu Mekonnen, Matthias Merker, Jeffrey M. Collins, Desalegn Addise, Abraham Aseffa, Beyene Petros, Gobena Ameni, Stefan Niemann

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Background Previous studies suggest the burden of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) in Ethiopia may be greater in university students relative to the overall population. However, little is known about the transmission dynamics of PTB among students and members of the communities surrounding university campuses in Eastern Ethiopia. Methods A cross sectional study was conducted in Eastern Ethiopia among prevalent culture-confirmed PTB cases from university students (n = 36) and community members diagnosed at one of four hospitals (n = 152) serving the surrounding area. Drug susceptibility testing (DST) was performed on Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) isolates using BD Bactec MGIT 960 and molecular genotyping was performed using spoligotyping and 24-loci MIRU-VNTR. MTBC strains with Identical genotyping patterns were assigned to molecular clusters as surrogate marker for recent transmission and further contact tracing was initiated among clustered patients. Results Among all study participants, four MTBC lineages and 11 sub-lineages were identified, with Ethiopia_3 (Euro-American lineage) being most common sub-lineage (29.4%) in both cohorts and associated with strain clustering (P = 0.016). We further identified 13 (8.1%) strains phylogenetically closely related to Ethiopia_3 but with a distinct Spoligotyping pattern and designated as Ethiopia_4. The clustering rate of MTBC strains was 52.9% for university students and 66.7% for community members with a Recent Transmission Index (RTI) of 17.6% and 48.4%, respectively. Female gender, urban residence, and new TB cases were significantly associated with strain clustering (P<0.05). Forty-eight (30%) of the study participants were resistant to one or more first line anti TB drugs, three patients were classified as multidrug resistant (MDR). Conclusion We found evidence for recent transmission of PTB among Ethiopian university students and the local community in Eastern Ethiopia, mainly linked to strains classified as Ethiopia_3 sub lineage. Drug resistance didn’t have a major impact on recent transmission but comprehensive molecular surveillance in combination with drug resistance profiling of MTBC strains is desirable to better characterize TB transmission dynamics in high risk congregate living environments such as university campuses and guide regional TB control programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0198054
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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