Hyper-virulent Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 1 strains are endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa and frequently cause lethal meningitis outbreaks. It remains unknown whether genetic variation in serotype 1 strains modulates tropism into cerebrospinal fluid to cause central nervous system (CNS) infections, particularly meningitis. Here, we address this question through a large-scale linear mixed model genome-wide association study of 909 African pneumococcal serotype 1 isolates collected from CNS and non-CNS human samples. By controlling for host age, geography, and strain population structure, we identify genome-wide statistically significant genotype-phenotype associations in surface-exposed choline-binding (P = 5.00 × 10−08) and helicase proteins (P = 1.32 × 10−06) important for invasion, immune evasion and pneumococcal tropism to CNS. The small effect sizes and negligible heritability indicated that causation of CNS infection requires multiple genetic and other factors reflecting a complex and polygenic aetiology. Our findings suggest that certain pathogen genetic variation modulate pneumococcal survival and tropism to CNS tissue, and therefore, virulence for meningitis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Medicine (miscellaneous)