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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Genomic analysis of group B Streptococcus from milk demonstrates the need for improved biosecurity: a cross-sectional study of pastoralist camels in Kenya

Seligsohn, Dinah; Crestani, Chiara; Forde, Taya L.; Chenais, Erika; Zadoks, Ruth N.


Background Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B Streptococcus, (GBS)) is the leading cause of mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) among dairy camels in Sub-Saharan Africa, with negative implications for milk production and quality and animal welfare. Camel milk is often consumed raw and presence of GBS in milk may pose a public health threat. Little is known about the population structure or virulence factors of camel GBS. We investigated the molecular epidemiology of camel GBS and its implications for mastitis control and public health. Results Using whole genome sequencing, we analysed 65 camel milk GBS isolates from 19 herds in Isiolo, Kenya. Six sequence types (STs) were identified, mostly belonging to previously described camel-specific STs. One isolate belonged to ST1, a predominantly human-associated lineage, possibly as a result of interspecies transmission. Most (54/65) isolates belonged to ST616, indicative of contagious transmission. Phylogenetic analysis of GBS core genomes showed similar levels of heterogeneity within- and between herds, suggesting ongoing between-herd transmission. The lactose operon, a marker of GBS adaptation to the mammary niche, was found in 75 % of the isolates, and tetracycline resistance gene tet(M) in all but two isolates. Only the ST1 isolate harboured virulence genes scpB and lmb, which are associated with human host adaptation. Conclusions GBS in milk from Kenyan camel herds largely belongs to ST616 and shows signatures of adaptation to the udder. The finding of similar levels of within- and between herd heterogeneity of GBS in camel herds, as well as potential human-camel transmission highlights the need for improved internal as well as external biosecurity to curb disease transmission and increase milk production.


Streptococcus agalactiae; Nomadic; Dairy; Camelids; Molecular epidemiology; Intramammary infection; Biosecurity

Published in

BMC Microbiology
2021, volume: 21, number: 1, article number: 217
Publisher: BMC

Authors' information

Seligsohn, Dinah
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
Seligsohn, Dinah
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Crestani, Chiara
University of Glasgow
Forde, Taya L.
University of Glasgow
Chenais, Erika
National Veterinary Institute SVA
Zadoks, Ruth N.
University of Glasgow

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

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