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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Feb;79(4):1265-76. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03350-12. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

Protective mechanisms of respiratory tract Streptococci against Streptococcus pyogenes biofilm formation and epithelial cell infection.

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University of Rostock, Institute of Medical Microbiology, Virology, and Hygiene, Rostock, Germany.


Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococci [GAS]) encounter many streptococcal species of the physiological microbial biome when entering the upper respiratory tract of humans, leading to the question how GAS interact with these bacteria in order to establish themselves at this anatomic site and initiate infection. Here we show that S. oralis and S. salivarius in direct contact assays inhibit growth of GAS in a strain-specific manner and that S. salivarius, most likely via bacteriocin secretion, also exerts this effect in transwell experiments. Utilizing scanning electron microscopy documentation, we identified the tested strains as potent biofilm producers except for GAS M49. In mixed-species biofilms, S. salivarius dominated the GAS strains, while S. oralis acted as initial colonizer, building the bottom layer in mixed biofilms and thereby allowing even GAS M49 to form substantial biofilms on top. With the exception of S. oralis, artificial saliva reduced single-species biofilms and allowed GAS to dominate in mixed biofilms, although the overall two-layer structure was unchanged. When covered by S. oralis and S. salivarius biofilms, epithelial cells were protected from GAS adherence, internalization, and cytotoxic effects. Apparently, these species can have probiotic effects. The use of Affymetrix array technology to assess HEp-2 cell transcription levels revealed modest changes after exposure to S. oralis and S. salivarius biofilms which could explain some of the protective effects against GAS attack. In summary, our study revealed a protection effect of respiratory tract bacteria against an important airway pathogen and allowed a first in vitro insight into local environmental processes after GAS enter the respiratory tract.

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