This study characterized the genotype and phenotype of Cryptococcus gattii
VGII isolates from Cucuta, an endemic region of cryptococcal disease in Colombia, and compared these traits with those from representative isolates from the Vancouver Island outbreak (VGIIa and VGIIb). Genetic diversity was assessed by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) analysis. Phenotypic characteristics, including growth capacity under different temperature and humidity conditions, macroscopic and microscopic morphology, phenotypic switching, mating type, and activity of extracellular enzymes were studied. Virulence was studied in vivo in a mouse model. MLST analysis showed that the isolates from Cucuta were highly clonal, with ST25 being the most common genotype. Phenotypically, isolates from Cucuta showed large cell and capsular sizes, and shared phenotypic traits and enzymatic activities among them. The mating type a prevailed among the isolates, which were fertile and of considerable virulence in the animal model. This study highlights the need for a continuous surveillance of C. gattii
in Colombia, especially in endemic areas like Cucuta, where the highest number of cryptococcosis cases due to this species is reported. This will allow the early detection of potentially highly virulent strains that spread clonally, and can help prevent the occurrence of outbreaks in Colombia and elsewhere.
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