Review Article

Review of molecular subtyping methodologies used to investigate outbreaks due to multidrug-resistant enteric bacterial pathogens in sub-Saharan Africa

Anthony M. Smith
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 8, No 1 | a760 | DOI: | © 2019 Anthony M. Smith | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 January 2018 | Published: 14 March 2019

About the author(s)

Anthony M. Smith, Centre for Enteric Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa; and, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, molecular epidemiological investigation of outbreaks caused by antimicrobial-resistant enteric bacterial pathogens have mostly been described for Salmonella species, Vibrio cholerae, Shigella species and Escherichia coli. For these organisms, I reviewed all publications describing the use of molecular subtyping methodologies to investigate outbreaks caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) enteric bacterial infections.

Objectives: To describe the use of molecular subtyping methodologies to investigate outbreaks caused by MDR enteric bacterial pathogens in sub-Saharan Africa and to describe the current status of molecular subtyping capabilities in the region.

Methods: A PubMed database literature search (English language only) was performed using the search strings: ‘Africa outbreak MDR’, ‘Africa outbreak multi’, ‘Africa outbreak multidrug’, ‘Africa outbreak multi drug’, ‘Africa outbreak resistance’, ‘Africa outbreak resistant’, ‘Africa outbreak drug’, ‘Africa outbreak antibiotic’, ‘Africa outbreak antimicrobial’. These search strings were used in combination with genus and species names of the organisms listed above. All results were included in the review.

Results: The year 1991 saw one of the first reports describing the use of molecular subtyping methodologies in sub-Saharan Africa; this included the use of plasmid profiling to characterise Salmonella Enteritidis. To date, several methodologies have been used; pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis and multilocus sequence typing have been the most commonly used methodologies. Investigations have particularly highlighted the emergence and spread of MDR clones; these include Salmonella Typhi H58 and Salmonella Typhimurium ST313 clones. In recent times, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) analysis approaches have increasingly been used.

Conclusion: Traditional molecular subtyping methodologies are still commonly used and still have their place in investigations; however, WGS approaches have increasingly been used and are slowly gaining a stronghold. African laboratories need to start adapting their molecular surveillance methodologies to include WGS, as it is foreseen that WGS analysis will eventually replace all traditional methodologies.


Africa; molecular subtyping; genotyping; molecular epidemiology; outbreak; antimicrobial-resistant; MDR; enteric pathogen


Total abstract views: 4685
Total article views: 4676


Crossref Citations

1. Flavodoxins as Novel Therapeutic Targets against Helicobacter pylori and Other Gastric Pathogens
Sandra Salillas, Javier Sancho
International Journal of Molecular Sciences  vol: 21  issue: 5  first page: 1881  year: 2020  
doi: 10.3390/ijms21051881