Strain-level bacterial typing directly from patient samples using optical DNA mapping

M. Nyblom, A. Johnning, K. Frykholm, M. Wrande, V. Müller, G. Goyal, M. Robertsson, A. Dvirnas, T. Sewunet, S. KK, T. Ambjörnsson, C. G. Giske, L. Sandgren, E. Kristiansson, F. Westerlund. Communications Medicine, 3(1), 31. February 23, 2023



Identification of pathogens is crucial to efficiently treat and prevent bacterial infections. However, existing diagnostic techniques are slow or have a too low resolution for well-informed clinical decisions.


In this study, we have developed an optical DNA mapping-based method for strain-level bacterial typing and simultaneous plasmid characterisation. For the typing, different taxonomical resolutions were examined and cultivated pure Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae samples were used for parameter optimization. Finally, the method was applied to mixed bacterial samples and uncultured urine samples from patients with urinary tract infections.


We demonstrate that optical DNA mapping of single DNA molecules can identify Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae at the strain level directly from patient samples. At a taxonomic resolution corresponding to E. coli sequence type 131 and K. pneumoniae clonal complex 258 forming distinct groups, the average true positive prediction rates are 94% and 89%, respectively. The single-molecule aspect of the method enables us to identify multiple E. coli strains in polymicrobial samples. Furthermore, by targeting plasmid-borne antibiotic resistance genes with Cas9 restriction, we simultaneously identify the strain or subtype and characterize the corresponding plasmids.


The optical DNA mapping method is accurate and directly applicable to polymicrobial and clinical samples without cultivation. Hence, it has the potential to rapidly provide comprehensive diagnostics information, thereby optimizing early antibiotic treatment and opening up for future precision medicine management.

Photo credits: Nic McPhee