Contrasting molecular epidemiology of group A streptococci causing tropical and nontropical infections of the skin and throat

J Infect Dis. 2000 Oct;182(4):1109-16. doi: 10.1086/315842. Epub 2000 Sep 8.


Disease caused by group A streptococci (GAS) in tropical regions often takes the form of impetigo, whereas pharyngitis tends to predominate in temperate zones. GAS derived from asymptomatic throat infections and pyoderma lesions of rural Aboriginal Australians were evaluated for phylogenetic distant emm genes, which represent ecological markers for tissue site preference. On the basis of the percentage of total isolates from a given tissue, emm pattern A-C organisms exhibited a stronger predilection for the throat, whereas pattern D organisms preferred the skin. Only 16% of isolates collected by active surveillance displayed pattern A-C, which reflects the low incidence of oropharyngeal infection. Importantly, most (70%) pattern A-C organisms were isolated from skin sores, despite their innate tendency to infect the throat. Combined with findings from nontropical populations, analysis of the data supports the hypothesis that GAS tissue preferences are genetically predetermined and that host risk factors for infection strongly influence the differential reproduction of individual clones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier State / epidemiology
  • Carrier State / microbiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Impetigo / epidemiology
  • Impetigo / microbiology
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group
  • Pharyngitis / epidemiology*
  • Pharyngitis / microbiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pyoderma / epidemiology
  • Pyoderma / microbiology
  • Rural Population
  • Skin Diseases, Bacterial / epidemiology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification
  • Tropical Climate


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • streptococcal M protein