Unit | Tuberculosis Ecology and Evolution

The Tuberculosis Ecology and Evolution Unit studies the causes and consequences of genetic diversity in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC), the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). We combine various disciplines to study the global diversity of the MTBC, the evolutionary forces that drive this diversity, and the phenotypic consequences of this diversity for the biology and the epidemiology of TB.

Our research comprises three complementary arms:

  • The global population structure of the MTBC
  • Ecology and evolution of drug-resistant MTBC
  • Genomic epidemiology of TB

Partnerships

An important part of this work relies on our long-term partnerships with collaborators in TB-endemic countries. These include the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana, and the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in Georgia.

The Global Population Structure of the MTBC

The human-adapted MTBC comprises seven phylogenetic lineages that are associated with different regions of the world. We use comparative whole genome sequencing to study the differences between these lineages and the evolutionary forces shaping this diversity. We combine various –omics technologies with functional assays and epidemiological data to investigate the phenotypic consequences of this diversity. Read more

The Ecology and Evolution of Drug-resistant MTBC

Drug resistance poses a growing threat to global health. When drug-resistant bacteria first emerge, they are often less transmissible than susceptible strains – this is because drug resistance in bacteria is often associated with a reduction in Darwinian fitness. However, evolution is a continuous process, and drug-resistant bacteria readily adapt and regain the ability to transmit. This process is mediated by compensatory mutations. Further information

Genomic epidemiology of TB

Recent advances in whole-genome sequencing have revolutionized molecular epidemiological investigation of TB. We use such genomic epidemiological approaches to study the transmission dynamics of TB in Switzerland and in TB-endemic countries. We also explore the micro-evolution of MTBC in individual patients during treatment. More information

Hailu E et al. Corrigendum: Lack of methoxy-mycolates characterizes the geographically restricted lineage 7 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Microb Genom. 2024;10(3). DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.001226

Hiza H et al. Bacterial diversity dominates variable macrophage responses of tuberculosis patients in Tanzania. Sci Rep. 2024;14(1):9287. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-60001-0

Tschan Y et al. Diagnostic accuracy of a sequence-specific Mtb-DNA hybridization assay in urine: a case-control study including subclinical TB cases. Microbiol Spectr. 2024(in press). DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.00426-24

Windels E.M et al. HIV co-infection is associated with reduced Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmissibility in sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS Pathog. 2024;20(5):e1011675. DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011675

Derendinger B et al. Bedaquiline resistance in patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis in Cape Town, South Africa: a retrospective longitudinal cohort study. Lancet Microbe. 2023;4(12):e972-e982. DOI: 10.1016/s2666-5247(23)00172-6