Whole genome sequencing reveals virulence potentials of Helicobacter pylori strain KE21 isolated from a Kenyan patient with gastric signet ring cell carcinoma

Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection is etiologically associated with severe diseases including gastric cancer; but its pathogenicity is deeply shaped by the exceptional genomic diversification and geographic variation of the species. The clinical relevance of strains colonizing Africa is still debated.

This study aimed to explore genomic features and virulence potentials of H. pylori KE21, a typical African strain isolated from a native Kenyan patient diagnosed with a gastric cancer.

A high-quality circular genome assembly of 1,648,327 bp (1590 genes) obtained as a hybrid of Illumina Miseq short reads and Oxford Nanopore MinION long reads, clustered within hpAfrica1 population. This genome revealed a virulome and a mobilome encoding more than hundred features potentiating a successful colonization, persistent infection, and enhanced disease pathogenesis. Furthermore, through an experimental infection of gastric epithelial cell lines, strain KE21 showed the ability to promote interleukin-8 production and to induce cellular alterations resulting from the injection of a functional CagA oncogene protein into the cells.

This study shows that strain KE21 is potentially virulent and can trigger oncogenic pathways in gastric epithelial cells. Expended genomic and clinical explorations are required to evaluate the epidemiological importance of H. pylori infection and its putative complications in the study population.

Authors: Catherine Mwangi, Stephen Njoroge, Evariste Tshibangu-Kabamba, Zahir Moloo, Allan Rajula, Smita Devani, Takashi Matsumoto, Kimang’a Nyerere, Samuel Kariuki, Gunturu Revathi, Yoshio Yamaoka