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Population-Based Analysis of Invasive Nontypeable Pneumococci Reveals That Most Have Defective Capsule Synthesis Genes
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    Since nasopharyngeal carriage of pneumococcus precedes invasive pneumococcal disease, characteristics of carriage isolates could be incorrectly assumed to reflect those of invasive isolates. While most pneumococci express a capsular polysaccharide, nontypeable pneumococci are sometimes isolated. Carriage nontypeables tend to encode novel surface proteins in place of a capsular polysaccharide synthetic locus, the cps locus. In contrast, capsular polysaccharide is believed to be indispensable for invasive pneumococcal disease, and nontypeables from population-based invasive pneumococcal disease surveillance have not been extensively characterized. We received 14,328 invasive pneumococcal isolates through the Active Bacterial Core surveillance program during 2006-2009. Isolates that were nontypeable by Quellung serotyping were characterized by PCR serotyping, sequence analyses of the cps locus, and multilocus sequence typing. Eighty-eight isolates were Quellung-nontypeable (0.61%). Of these, 79 (89.8%) contained cps loci. Twenty-two nontypeables exhibited serotype 8 cps loci with defects, primarily within wchA. Six of the remaining nine isolates contained previously-described aliB homologs in place of cps loci. Multilocus sequence typing revealed that most nontypeables that lacked capsular biosynthetic genes were related to established non-encapsulated lineages. Thus, invasive pneumococcal disease caused by nontypeable pneumococcus remains rare in the United States, and while carriage nontypeables lacking cps loci are frequently isolated, such nontypeable are extremely rare in invasive pneumococcal disease. Most invasive nontypeable pneumococci possess defective cps locus genes, with an over-representation of defective serotype 8 cps variants.

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  • Funding:
    AI-31473/AI/NIAID NIH HHS/United States
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