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Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1988;454:163-6.

Role of attachment for the virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae.

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Department of Clinical Immunology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


Adherence of microorganisms to mucosal surfaces is a general phenomenon among microorganisms infecting the human host. Its role for persistence and colonization as well as production of local inflammation is well established. This paper describes the adhesion of Streptococcus pneumoniae to human epithelial cells. Strains from various anatomical sites or diseases are compared for attaching capacity. Isolates from the same host but at different times are also compared. The molecular mechanisms, the so-called adhesin-receptor interactions, are partially described. The pneumococcus recognizes a sugar sequence; GlcNAc beta 1-3Gal; on the surface of the host epithelial cell. Glycoconjugates containing this disaccharide act as receptors for adhering pneumococci. The adhesin in pneumococcal attachment is less well characterized. It is a heat and trypsin sensitive component, most likely a peptide, which forms a bridge between the receptor and an anchoring site in the pneumococcal cell wall. Receptor active saccharides are part of the adhesion-inhibitory activity found in human milk.

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