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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 1989; 86(12): 4731–4735.
PMCID: PMC287347

Identification of a high-virulence clone of type III Streptococcus agalactiae (group B Streptococcus) causing invasive neonatal disease.


Chromosomal genotypes of 128 isolates of six serotypes (Ia, Ib, Ic, II, Ic/II, and III) of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B Streptococcus) recovered predominantly from human infants in the United States were characterized by an analysis of electrophoretically demonstrable allelic profiles at 11 metabolic enzyme loci. Nineteen distinctive electrophoretic types (ETs), representing multilocus clonal genotypes, were identified. Mean genetic diversity per locus among ETs of isolates of the same serotype was, on average, nearly equal to that in all 19 ETs. Cluster analysis of the ETs revealed two primary phylogenetic divisions at a genetic distance of 0.65. A single clone (ET 1) represented by 40 isolates expressing type III antigen formed division I. Division II was composed of 18 ETs in three major lineages diverging from one another at distances greater than 0.35 and included strains of all six antigenic classes. The type III organisms in division I produce more extracellular neuraminidase and apparently are more virulent than the type III strains in division II, which are related to strains of other serotypes that cause disease much less frequently. The existence of this unusually virulent clone accounts, in major part, for the high morbidity and mortality associated with infection by type III organisms.

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