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Waterborne epidemics of tularaemia caused by Francisella tularensis are increasingly reported in Turkey. We have used whole genome sequencing to investigate if F. tularensis isolated from patients could be traced back to drinking water sources. Tonsil swabs from 33 patients diagnosed with oropharyngeal tularaemia in three outbreaks and 140 water specimens were analysed. F. tularensis subsp. holarctica was confirmed by microagglutination and PCR in 12 patients and five water specimens. Genomic analysis of three pairs of patient and water isolates from outbreaks in Sivas, Çorum, and Kocaeli showed the isolates to belong to two new clusters of the F. tularensis B.12 genetic clade. The clusters were defined by 19 and 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a multiple alignment based on 507 F. tularensis genomes. One synonymous SNP was chosen as a new canonical SNP (canSNP) for each cluster for future use in diagnostic assays. No SNP was identified between the genomes from the patient-water pair of isolates from Kocaeli, one SNP between the pair of isolates from Sivas, whereas the pair from Çorum differed at seven SNPs. These results illustrate the power of whole genome sequencing for tracing F. tularensis patient isolates back to their environmental source. .


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