GTDB Forum

Reclassification of Shigella species as synonyms of E. coli

Community feedback on this reclassification is welcomed.

Members of the genus Shigella have high genomic similarity to Escherichia coli and are often considered to be atypical members of this species. In an attempt to retain Shigella species as recognizable entities, they were reclassified as Escherichia species in the Genome Taxonomy Database (GTDB) using an operational average nucleotide identity (ANI)-based approach nucleated around type strains. This resulted in nearly 80% of E. coli genomes being reclassified to new species including the common laboratory strain E. coli K-12 (to ‘E. flexneri’) because it is more closely related to the type strain of Shigella flexneri than it is to the type strain of E. coli. Here we resolve this conundrum by treating Shigella species as later heterotypic synonyms of E. coli, present evidence supporting this reclassification, and show that assigning E. coli/Shigella strains to a single species is congruent with the GTDB-adopted genomic species definition.

This is absolutely the correct approach. The genus Shigella was not even monophyletic. The names of the Shigella species are still valid and can be used in the medical field but should be avoided and this system should be used when we want to understand evolution and have a functional classification system.

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