Molecular Epidemiology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex Strains in Urban and Slum Settings of Nairobi, Kenya

Glennah Kerubo, Perpetua Ndungu, Yassir Adam Shuaib, Evans Amukoye, Gunturu Revathi, Susanne Homolka, Samuel Kariuki, Matthias Merker, Stefan Niemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Kenya is a country with a high tuberculosis (TB) burden. However, knowledge on the genetic diversity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) strains and their transmission dynamics is sparsely available. Hence, we used whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to depict the genetic diversity, molecular markers of drug resistance, and possible transmission clusters among MTBC strains in urban and slum settings of Nairobi. We analyzed 385 clinical MTBC isolates collected between 2010 and 2015 in combination with patients’ demographics. We showed that the MTBC population mainly comprises strains of four lineages (L1-L4). The two dominating lineages were L4 with 55.8% (n = 215) and L3 with 25.7% (n = 99) of all strains, respectively. Genome-based cluster analysis showed that 30.4% (117/385) of the strains were clustered using a ≤5 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) threshold as a surrogate marker for direct patient-to-patient MTBC transmission. Moreover, 5.2% (20/385) of the strains were multidrug-resistant (MDR), and 50.0% (n = 10) were part of a genome-based cluster (i.e., direct MDR MTBC transmission). Notably, 30.0% (6/20) of the MDR strains were resistant to all first-line drugs and are part of one molecular cluster. Moreover, TB patients in urban living setting had 3.8 times the odds of being infected with a drug-resistant strain as compared to patients from slums (p-value = 0.002). Our results show that L4 strains are the main causative agent of TB in Nairobi and MDR strain transmission is an emerging concern in urban settings. This emphasizes the need for more focused infection control measures and contact tracing of patients with MDR TB to break the transmission chains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number475
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Molecular epidemiology, Nairobi
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whole-genome sequencing


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