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Vet Microbiol. 2019 Aug;235:71-79. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2019.06.008. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

The distribution of clones of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococci) among herdspersons and dairy cows demonstrates lack of host specificity for some lineages.

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Department of Biomedicine, Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. Electronic address:
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
SEGES Livestock Innovation, Aarhus, Denmark.


Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B streptococcus, GBS) is a commensal of the human intestinal tract and vagina and is also an opportunistic pathogen causing serious, potentially lethal, infections preferentially in newborns and in the elderly. In cattle, it is considered an udder-specific pathogen and a common cause of mastitis. Here we investigated the host specificity of GBS by examining their colonization at various anatomical sites in both cattle and humans, as well as the possible cross-species transmission in closed barn environments. We collected more than 800 swab samples from dairy cows and herdspersons at eight dairy farms in Denmark. GBS was isolated from 12% of the samples. The GBS strains (N = 105) were characterized by biochemical test, serology, and Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE). Based on the PFGE patterns, 25 strains were selected for whole genome sequencing followed by phylogenetic analyses. The genomes were compared to each other and to a collection of publicly available GBS genomes. The study revealed that GBS clones were shared by cows and herdspersons. In phylogenetic analyses, these shared clones clustered with GBS strains from persons with no relation to farming. Horizontal cross-species transmission of the contagion in both directions was found to be highly likely within the same environment; thus, some cases of bovine mastitis are probably antrophonotic.


Anthroponosis; Bacterial transmission; Group B streptococcus; Mastitis; Streptococcal disease; Streptococcal genetics; Streptococcal resistance; Streptococcus agalactiae; Zoonosis

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