Whole Genome Sequencing as a Tool to Study the Genomic Landscape of Pathogens

  • Sharif Hala

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In healthcare settings and beyond, the ESKAPE pathogens (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) among other pathogens exchange antibiotic resistance and virulence factors and emerge as new infectious clones. According to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics (stats.gov.sa), Saudi Arabia is a country where more than 27 million pilgrims meet in annual continual mass-gathering events. This massive influx of people could introduce novel pathogens to the community that could not necessarily be detected with traditional culture-dependent clinical microbiological tests. Conventional clinical microbiology and environmental pathogen detection methods have had many limitations and narrow search scope. These methods can only target known and culturable pathogens. Over the past decade, applications of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics tools have revolutionized the way pathogens are detected and their relevant phenotypes such as clonal types, antibiotic resistance are predicted to aid in clinical decision making as additional practice to traditional clinical microbiology-based testing protocols. The aim of this study was to apply whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and bioinformatic analysis tools on clinical samples and bacterial isolates in order to pave the way for transforming current clinical microbiology practices in a tertiary referral hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. My attempt to utilize WGS as a tool on pathogenic strains in this study combined with the clinical data has resulted in discovering a silent outbreak of an emerging hypervirulent strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae (Chapter 2). Analysis of the strains antimicrobial profiles genetically has yielded the first characterization of a misidentified Klebsiella quasipneumoniae harboring plasmid-mediated carbapenemases of Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemases (KPC) (Chapter 3). Similarly, I was able to study mobile colistin resistance genes in the isolates and identify a novel occurrence of mcr-1 and mcr-8 (Chapter 4). I applied clinical metagenomic protocol on an intestinal biopsy of an inflammatory bowel disease patient with Crohn’s disease, where I identified an association of three co-occurring and an actively replicating non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (Chapter 5). The deployment of whole-genome sequencing and metagenomic in infectious disease surveillance and diagnostics could prove beneficial in limiting epidemics and detect transmission patterns of antimicrobial-resistant genes.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorArnab Pain (Supervisor)


  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Whole-Genome Sequencing
  • Clinical Microbiology
  • Outbreak sureillance
  • Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Metagenomics

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