Epidemiology and virulence gene expression of intracellular group A streptococci in tonsils of recurrently infected adults

Int J Med Microbiol. 2003 Jun;293(2-3):179-90. doi: 10.1078/1438-4221-00253.


Intracellularly persistent group A streptococci (GAS, Streptococcus pyogenes) have been associated with recurrent tonsillopharyngitis and antibiotic treatment failure. As a supplementation of the published in vitro data, conventional bacteriology and molecular epidemiology was performed on material from 29 adult patients of a German army hospital with anamnestic signs of recurrent tonsillopharyngitis. Pre-surgery tonsil swabs and the surgically removed tonsils were examined with respect to growth of aerobic bacteria in absence and presence of antibiotics with exclusively extracellular activity. Under such antibiotic selection, Staphylococcus aureus and GAS were cultured from specimens of 13 and 3 patients, respectively. In every material GAS-positive by culture methods, the intracellular location of the penicillin-susceptible GAS isolates was confirmed by immunohistologic examination of tonsillar sections using a GAS-specific IgG antibody. The three intracellular GAS isolates were typed by emm gene sequencing and could be associated to types M6 and M49 (two isolates). The bacteria were serially passaged on sheep blood agar, and semiquantitative mRNA analysis from virulence genes was performed using bacteria of the 4th and 25th passage after isolation. An M-type-specific pattern of virulence gene expression and different gene expression levels in relation to the passage number were observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoids / microbiology
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / analysis
  • Adult
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Hospitals, Military
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Palatine Tonsil / microbiology
  • Pharyngitis / epidemiology*
  • Pharyngitis / microbiology
  • Pharyngitis / prevention & control
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Recurrence
  • Streptococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / genetics
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / growth & development
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification*
  • Tonsillitis / epidemiology*
  • Tonsillitis / microbiology
  • Tonsillitis / prevention & control
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • RNA, Messenger
  • fibronectin-binding proteins, bacterial