Background: In Japan invasive group A streptococcal infections such as sepsis and toxic shock syndrome (TSS) have increased since 1992. As is the case in the United States and Europe, M1 serotype is predominant among the isolates from Japanese patients.
Methods: By restriction enzyme digestion and pulsed field gel electrophoresis, we investigated the whole genomic DNA profiles of 95 M type 1 group A streptococcal strains isolated from patients with serious diseases including sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, necrotizing fasciitis and nonsuppurative complications and with uncomplicated pharyngitis during 1979 through 1996 in Japan.
Results: The genome profiles among 8 of 10 isolates from patients with serious diseases in 1979 through 1991 were all the same and were shared by the profiles of the 35 of 48 isolates from patients with uncomplicated pharyngitis in 1982 through 1991. All 18 strains isolated from patients with invasive diseases in 1992 to 1996 had a unique profile, which was shared by the profiles of 18 of 19 isolates from uncomplicated pharyngitis during the same period. This genomic profile was distinct from the predominant or any other profiles before 1992, and it was found to be a new clone.
Conclusions: The emergence and spread of this new clone of M type 1 Streptococcus after 1991 may be associated with the increase in invasive streptococcal infections that occurred during the same period in Japan. Genomic profiles as well as serotypes of streptococcal isolates are important for the epidemiology of clinical relevance in streptococcal diseases.