Date: 30 Jan 2011

MLVA and SNP analysis identified a unique genetic cluster in Bulgarian Bacillus anthracis strains

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A collection of 40 Bacillus anthracis strains mostly isolated from soil in Bulgaria between 1960 and 1980 were investigated. All strains were proven to be B. anthracis by culture and amplification of a B. anthracis-specific chromosomal marker. PCR demonstrated that in nine strains both virulence plasmids (pX01+/pX02+) and in four strains only one plasmid (pX02+) were present, whereas the majority of strains (n = 27) lacked both plasmids (pX01-/pX02-). Multi-locus-variable number of tandem repeat-analysis (MLVA) using 15 markers differentiated three genotypes. Comparison with typing data of more than 1,000 different B. anthracis strains revealed that Bulgarian genotypes affiliated with the A1.a cluster and form their own unique cluster different from clusters containing strains isolated in geographical proximity, e.g., Turkey, Georgia, Hungary, Albania or Italy. In addition, a new allele of one marker (vrrC2) was identified. Canonical single nucleotide polymorphisms analysis allocated 31 Bulgarian strains into the A.Br.008/009 and nine strains into the A.Br.WNA group, which is the first description of B. anthracis strains of the A.Br.WNA group on the Eurasian continent.