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Emergence and spread of
<i>Mycobacterium ulcerans</i>
at different geographic scales


The classical lineage of Mycobacterium ulcerans is the most prevalent clonal group associated with Buruli ulcer in humans. Its reservoir is strongly associated with the environment. We analyzed together 1,045 isolates collected from 13 countries on two continents to define the evolutionary history and population dynamics of this lineage. We confirm that this lineage spread over 7,000 years from Australia to Africa with the emergence of outbreaks in distinct waves in the 18th and 19th centuries. In sharp contrast with its global spread over the last century, transmission chains are now mostly local, with little or no dissemination between endemic areas. This study provides new insights into the phylogeography and population dynamics of M. ulcerans, highlighting the importance of comparative genomic analyses to improve our understanding of pathogen transmission. IMPORTANCE Mycobacterium ulcerans is an environmental mycobacterial pathogen that can cause Buruli ulcer, a severe cutaneous infection, mostly spread in Africa and Australia. We conducted a large genomic study of M. ulcerans , combining genomic and evolutionary approaches to decipher its evolutionary history and pattern of spread at different geographic scales. At the scale of villages in an endemic area of Benin, the circulating genotypes have been introduced in recent decades and are not randomly distributed along the river. On a global scale, M. ulcerans has been spreading for much longer, resulting in distinct and compartmentalized endemic foci across Africa and Australia.

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Journal Article
Briand M
Boccarossa A
Rieux A
Jacques M
Ganlanon L
Johnson C
Eveillard M
Marsollier L
Marion E
Aubry A