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Int J Med Microbiol. 2006 Feb;296(1):39-44. Epub 2005 Dec 19.

Epidemiology of Streptococcus agalactiae colonization in Germany.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology and National Reference Center for Streptococci, University Hospital Aachen, Pauwelsstr. 30, D-52057 Aachen, Germany.


Streptococcus agalactiae can cause severe pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis in neonates and remains one of the most prevalent causes of invasive neonatal infections. Maternal transmission of S. agalactiae during delivery can be prevented by prenatal screening and peripartal antibiotic prophylaxis. Implementation of CDC guidelines for group B streptococci (GBS) disease prevention resulted in a significant decline of invasive neonatal S. agalactiae infections in the USA. Similar national guidelines were issued in 2000 for Germany. However, the epidemiology of S. agalactiae colonization in Germany has not been investigated for more than 15 years and the impact these guidelines will have is therefore unknown. To assess colonization rates in Germany, we cultured vaginal and rectal swabs for S. agalactiae from pregnant and non-pregnant adult patients in the region of Aachen and Munich. Swabs were cultivated in selective broth medium for 24h and subsequently plated on blood agar plates according to the CDC recommendations. Colonies negative for catalase and pyrrolidonyl aminopeptidase were further differentiated by the CAMP test and a DNA probe specific for S. agalactiae. Rectal or vaginal colonization of S. agalactiae was found in 34 (16%) of 210 pregnant patients and in 41 (16%) of 250 non-pregnant women. S. agalactiae was found only in rectal swabs in 4% of pregnant and non-pregnant patients. For further characterization of the strains capsular serotypes and major surface protein antigens were determined by Ouchterlony immunodiffusion and PCR. Among the 75 different patient isolates serotype III was the most prevalent with 21 (28%) isolates, followed by 16 (21%) isolates of serotype II, 13 (17%) isolates of serotype Ia, 12 (16%) of serotype V, 11 (15%) of serotype Ib and only 2 (3%) isolates of serotype IV. The vast majority of all strains harbored genes for the major surface protein antigens, the alpha-C-protein or alpha-C-protein like antigens like Alp2-4, epsilon and Rib. These data show that S. agalactiae colonization is common in Germany and strict adherence to the guidelines for the preventions of GBS disease will result in peripartal antibiotic prophylaxis in up to 20% of all deliveries.

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