Development and Clinical Application of a Multilocus Sequence Typing Scheme for Bacteroides fragilis Based on Whole-Genome Sequencing Data

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Bacteroides fragilis is among the most abundant and pathogenic bacterial species in the gut microbiota and is associated with diarrheal disease in children, inflammatory bowel disease, and the development of colorectal cancer. It is increasingly resistant to potent antimicrobial agents such as carbapenems and metronidazole, making it among the most resistant anaerobic bacteria. These factors combined call for increased monitoring of B. fragilis and its population structure on a worldwide scale. Here, we present a possible solution through the development of a multilocus sequence typing scheme (MLST). The scheme is based on seven core gene fragments: groL ( hsp60), rpoB, recA, dnaJ, rprX, prfA, and fusA. These gene fragments possess high discriminatory power while retaining concordance with whole core genome-based phylogenetic analysis. The scheme proved capable of differentiating B. fragilis isolates at the strain level. It offers a standardized method for molecular typing and can be applied to isolates from various sampling backgrounds, such as patient isolates, environmental samples, and strains obtained from food and animal sources. In total, 567 B. fragilis genomes were sequence typed and their isolate data collected. The MLST scheme clearly divided the B. fragilis population into two divisions based on the presence of the cfiA and cepA resistance genes. However, no other specific subpopulations within the analyzed genomes were found to be associated with any specific diseases or geographical location. With this MLST scheme, we hope to provide a powerful tool for the study and monitoring of B. fragilis on an international scale. IMPORTANCE Here, we present the first MLST scheme for Bacteroides fragilis, one of the most abundant pathogenic bacteria in the human gut microbiota. The scheme enables standard classification and monitoring of B. fragilis on a worldwide scale and groups the majority of current isolate data in one place. A more unified approach to the collection and analysis of B. fragilis data could provide crucial insights into how the pathogen operates and develops as a species. Close monitoring of B. fragilis is especially relevant, as it is increasingly resistant to potent antimicrobial agents and engages in horizontal gene transfer with other bacteria. Hopefully, this approach will guide new discoveries into how B. fragilis evolves and interacts with its human host. Additionally, the scheme could potentially be applied to other species of the genus Bacteroides.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 21. Mar 2023


  • Bacteroides fragilis
  • Whole-genome sequencing
  • Anaerobic bacteria
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Bacteremia
  • Bioinformatics
  • carbapenemase
  • cfiA
  • Genome typing
  • Genomics
  • Population structure
  • Pathogenesis


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