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Nat Med. 1999 Aug;5(8):924-9.

Rapid selection of complement-inhibiting protein variants in group A Streptococcus epidemic waves.

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Institute for the Study of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Serotype M1 group A Streptococcus strains cause epidemic waves of human infections long thought to be mono- or pauciclonal. The gene encoding an extracellular group A Streptococcus protein (streptococcal inhibitor of complement) that inhibits human complement was sequenced in 1,132 M1 strains recovered from population-based surveillance of infections in Canada, Finland and the United States. Epidemic waves are composed of strains expressing a remarkably heterogeneous array of variants of streptococcal inhibitor of complement that arise very rapidly by natural selection on mucosal surfaces. Thus, our results enhance the understanding of pathogen population dynamics in epidemic waves and infectious disease reemergence.

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