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Mol Oral Microbiol. 2011 Apr;26(2):89-98. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-1014.2010.00601.x. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Streptococcus mitis: walking the line between commensalism and pathogenesis.

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University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland.


Streptococcus mitis is a viridans streptococcus and a normal commensal of the human oropharynx. However, S. mitis can escape from this niche and cause a variety of infectious complications including infective endocarditis, bacteraemia and septicaemia. It uses a variety of strategies to effectively colonize the human oropharynx. These include expression of adhesins, immunoglobulin A proteases and toxins, and modulation of the host immune system. These various colonization factors allow S. mitis to compete for space and nutrients in the face of its more pathogenic oropharyngeal microbial neighbours. However, it is likely that in vulnerable immune-compromised patients S. mitis will use the same colonization and immune modulation factors as virulence factors promoting its opportunistic pathogenesis. The recent publication of a complete genome sequence for S. mitis strain B6 will allow researchers to thoroughly investigate which genes are involved in S. mitis host colonization and pathogenesis. Moreover, it will help to give insight into where S. mitis fits in the complicated oral microbiome. This review will discuss the current knowledge of S. mitis factors involved in host colonization, their potential role in virulence and what needs to be done to fully understand how a an oral commensal successfully transitions to a virulent pathogen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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