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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1991 Apr;4(2):184-90.

Nutritionally variant streptococci.

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Francis Blake Bacteriology Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


Streptococci requiring either pyridoxal or L-cysteine for growth were first observed 30 years ago as organisms forming satellite colonies adjacent to colonies of "helper" bacteria. Although they were previously considered nutritional mutants of viridans streptococcal species, the nutritionally variant streptococci (NVS) are currently thought to belong to distinct species of the genus Streptococcus. NVS strains may display pleomorphic cellular morphologies, depending on their growth conditions, and are distinguished from most other streptococci by enzymatic and serological characteristics and the presence of a cell wall chromophore. NVS are found as normal inhabitants of the oral cavity, and in addition to their participation in endocarditis, they have been isolated from a wide range of clinical specimens. Endocarditis caused by NVS is often difficult to eradicate; combinations of penicillin and an aminoglycoside are recommended for treatment. The unique physiological features of the NVS contribute to the difficulties encountered in their recovery from clinical specimens and may play a role in the problems associated with successful treatment of NVS endocarditis.

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