A typing scheme for the honeybee pathogen Melissococcus plutonius allows detection of disease transmission events and a study of the distribution of variants


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Melissococcus plutonius is the bacterial pathogen that causes European Foulbrood of honeybees, a globally important honeybee brood disease. We have used next-generation sequencing to identify highly polymorphic regions in an otherwise genetically homogenous organism, and used these loci to create a modified MLST scheme. This synthesis of a proven typing scheme format with next-generation sequencing combines reliability and low costs with insights only available from high-throughput sequencing technologies. Using this scheme we show that the global distribution of M. plutonius variants is not uniform. We use the scheme in epidemiological studies to trace movements of infective material around England, insights that would have been impossible to confirm without the typing scheme. We also demonstrate the persistence of local variants over time.