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J Infect Dis. 2008 Dec 15;198(12):1834-41. doi: 10.1086/593176.

Sequence variation in group A Streptococcus pili and association of pilus backbone types with lancefield T serotypes.

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Novartis Vaccines, Siena, Italy.



We previously reported that group A Streptococcus (GAS) pili are the T antigens described by Rebecca Lancefield. We also showed that these pili, constituted by backbone, ancillary 1, and ancillary 2 proteins, confer protection against GAS challenge in a mouse model.


We evaluated pilus distribution and conservation by sequencing the subunits of 39 new GAS isolates and used immunoblot analysis and agglutination assays to define the specificity of T sera to pilus subunits.


GAS pili are encoded by 9 different islands within which backbone protein, ancillary protein 1, and ancillary protein 2 cluster in 15, 16, and 5 variants, respectively. Immunoblot and agglutination assays revealed that T type is determined by the backbone variant. This observation enabled us to set up a simple polymerase chain reaction assay to define the T type of GAS isolates.


We propose the use of a tee gene sequence typing, analogous to the emm gene typing, as a valuable molecular tool that could substitute for the serological T classification of GAS strains. From our sequence analysis and from recent epidemiological data, we estimate that a vaccine comprising a combination of 12 backbone variants would protect against > 90% of currently circulating strains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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