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J Clin Microbiol. 2002 Oct;40(10):3671-80.

Development of a multilocus sequence typing scheme for the pig pathogen Streptococcus suis: identification of virulent clones and potential capsular serotype exchange.

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Infectious Disease Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.


Streptococcus suis is an important pathogen of pigs and occasionally causes serious human disease. However, little is known about the S. suis population structure, the clonal relationships between strains, the potential of particular clones to cause disease, and the relevance of serotype as a marker for epidemiology. Here we describe a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for S. suis developed in order to begin to address these issues. Seven housekeeping gene fragments from each of 294 S. suis isolates obtained from various S. suis diseases and from asymptomatic carriage representing 28 serotypes and nine distinct countries of origin were sequenced. Between 32 and 46 alleles per locus were identified, giving the ability to distinguish >1.6 x 10(11) sequence types (STs). However only 92 STs were identified in this study. Of the 92 STs 18 contained multiple isolates, the most common of which, ST1, was identified on 141 occasions from six countries. Assignment of the STs to lineages resulted in 37 being identified as unique and unrelated STs while the remaining 55 were assigned to 10 complexes. ST complexes ST1, ST27, and ST87 dominate the population; while the ST1 complex was strongly associated with isolates from septicemia, meningitis, and arthritis, the ST87 and ST27 complexes were found to contain significantly higher numbers of lung isolates. In agreement with the observed distribution of disease-causing isolates of S. suis, most isolates previously characterized as of high virulence in porcine infection models belong to ST1, while isolates belonging to other STs appear to be less virulent in general. Finally nine STs were found to contain isolates of multiple serotypes, and many isolates belonging to the same serotypes were found to have very disparate genetic backgrounds. As well as highlighting that the serotype can often be a poor indicator of genetic relatedness between S. suis isolates, these findings suggest that capsular genes may be moving horizontally through the S. suis population.

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