Impact of pathogen genetics on clinical phenotypes in a population of Talaromyces marneffei from Vietnam.
Sephton-Clark P., Nguyen T., Hoa NT., Ashton P., van Doorn HR., Ly VT., Le T., Cuomo CA.
Talaromycosis, a severe and invasive fungal infection caused by Talaromyces marneffei, is difficult to treat and impacts those living in endemic regions of Southeast Asia, India, and China. While 30% of infections result in mortality, our understanding of the genetic basis of pathogenesis for this fungus is limited. To address this, we apply population genomics and genome-wide association study approaches to a cohort of 336 T. marneffei isolates collected from patients who enrolled in the Itraconazole vs Amphotericin B for Talaromycosis trial in Vietnam. We find that isolates from northern and southern Vietnam form two distinct geographical clades, with isolates from southern Vietnam associated with increased disease severity. Leveraging longitudinal isolates, we identify multiple instances of disease relapse linked to unrelated strains, highlighting the potential for multistrain infections. In more frequent cases of persistent talaromycosis caused by the same strain, we identify variants arising over the course of patient infections that impact genes predicted to function in the regulation of gene expression and secondary metabolite production. By combining genetic variant data with patient metadata for all 336 isolates, we identify pathogen variants significantly associated with multiple clinical phenotypes. In addition, we identify genes and genomic regions under selection across both clades, highlighting loci undergoing rapid evolution, potentially in response to external pressures. With this combination of approaches, we identify links between pathogen genetics and patient outcomes and identify genomic regions that are altered during T. marneffei infection, providing an initial view of how pathogen genetics affects disease outcomes.