Pathogens 11 (8) - [2022-07-29; online 2022-07-29]
Anthrax-causing members of Bacillus cereus sensu lato (s.l.) pose a serious threat to public health. While most anthrax-causing strains resemble B. anthracis phenotypically, rare cases of anthrax-like illness caused by strains resembling "B. cereus" have been reported. Here, whole-genome sequencing was used to characterize three B. cereus s.l. isolates associated with two 2020 welder anthrax cases in the United States, which resembled "B. cereus" phenotypically. Comparison of the three genomes sequenced here to all publicly available, high-quality B. cereus s.l. genomes (n = 2890 total genomes) demonstrated that genomes associated with each case effectively belonged to separate species at the conventional 95% average nucleotide identity prokaryotic species threshold. Two PubMLST sequence type 78 (ST78) genomes affiliated with a case in Louisiana were most closely related to B. tropicus and possessed genes encoding the Bps exopolysaccharide capsule, as well as hemolysin BL (Hbl) and cytotoxin K (CytK). Comparatively, a ST108 genome associated with a case in Texas was most closely related to B. anthracis; however, like other anthrax-causing strains most closely related to B. anthracis, this genome did not possess Bps-, Hbl-, or CytK-encoding genes. Overall, results presented here provide insights into the evolution of anthrax-causing B. cereus s.l.