O'Rourke A, Lee MD, Nierman WC, Everroad RC, Dupont CL

Genomic and phenotypic characterization of Burkholderia isolates from the potable water system of the International Space Station.

PloS one. 2020-02-19; 15.2: e0227152.

The opportunistic pathogens Burkholderia cepacia and Burkholderia contaminans, both genomovars of the Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC), are frequently cultured from the potable water dispenser (PWD) of the International Space Station (ISS). Here, we sequenced the genomes and conducted phenotypic assays to characterize these Burkholderia isolates. All recovered isolates of the two species fall within monophyletic clades based on phylogenomic trees of conserved single-copy core genes. Within species, the ISS-derived isolates all demonstrate greater than 99% average nucleotide identity (with 95-99% of genomes aligning) and share around 90% of the identified gene clusters from a pangenomic analysis-suggesting that the two groups are each composed of highly similar genomic lineages and their members may have all stemmed from the same two founding populations. The differences that can be observed between the recovered isolates at the pangenomic level are primarily located within putative plasmids. Phenotypically, macrophage intracellularization and lysis occurred at generally similar rates between all ISS-derived isolates, as well as with their respective type-terrestrial strain references. All ISS-derived isolates exhibited antibiotic sensitivity similar to that of the terrestrial reference strains, and minimal differences between isolates were observed. With a few exceptions, biofilm formation rates were generally consistent across each species. And lastly, though isolation date does not necessarily provide any insight into how long a given isolate had been aboard the ISS, none of the assayed physiology correlated with either date of isolation or distances based on nucleotide variation. Overall, we find that while the populations of Burkholderia present in the ISS PWS each maintain virulence, they are likely are not more virulent than those that might be encountered on planet and remain susceptible to clinically used antibiotics.

PMID: 32074104