Molecular epidemiological investigations of plague in Eastern Province of Zambia

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Background: Plague is a flea-borne zoonotic and invasive disease caused by a gram negative coccobacillus bacterium called Yersinia pestis. Plague has caused three devastating pandemics globally namely: the Justinian, Black Death and Oriental plague. The disease in the Eastern Province of Zambia has been reported in Nyimba and Sinda Districts in the past 15 years. The aim of this study was to investigate the molecular epidemiology of plague in the two affected districts. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), targeting Plasminogen activator gene (pla gene) of Y. pestis, was performed on suspected human bubo aspirates (n = 7), rodents (n = 216), shrews (n = 27) and fleas (n = 1494). Of these, one positive sample from each source or host was subjected to sequencing followed by phylogenetic analysis. Results: The plasminogen activator gene (pla gene) of Y. pestis was detected in 42.8% bubo aspirates, 6.9% rodents, 3.7% shrew and 0.8% fleas. The fleas were from pigs (n = 4), goats (n = 5) and rodents (n = 3). The sequencing and phylogenetic analysis suggested that the pla gene of Y. pestis in Nyimba and Sinda was similar and the isolates demonstrated a high degree of evolutionary relationship with Antiqua strains from the Republic of Congo and Kenya. Conclusion: It can be concluded that pla gene of Y. pestis was present in various hosts in the two districts and the strains circulating in each district were similar and resembles those in the Republic of Congo and Kenya.




Nyirenda, S. S., Hang’ombe, B. M., Simulundu, E., Mulenga, E., Moonga, L., Machang’u, R. S., … Kilonzo, B. S. (2018). Molecular epidemiological investigations of plague in Eastern Province of Zambia. BMC Microbiology, 18(1).

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