Background: In spite of the emerging importance of Streptococcus dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis (human group C streptococci [GCS] and group G streptococci [GGS]) in human health, its molecular makeup remains largely undefined. Apart from sharing a phylogenetic relationship with the human pathogen group A streptococci (GAS), GCS/GGS and GAS colonize the same ecological niche and exhibit considerable overlap in their disease profiles. Such similarities imply that the virulence factors associated with diseases may also be similar.
Methods: In this study, we used a targeted microarray containing 216 GAS virulence genes to profile the virulence gene repertoires of 58 S. dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis isolates recovered during human infections. We performed comparative analyses to investigate the relationship between GAS virulence genes in and the invasive potential of GCS/GGS.
Results: Up to one-half of the GAS virulence genes represented in the microarray were identified in GCS/GGS. No statistical differences were observed between isolates harboring the group C versus group G carbohydrates; however, clustering algorithms revealed 2 genetically distinct clusters of S. dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis isolates. No relationship was observed between the virulence profile of GCS/GGS and the propensity for disease or the tissue site of isolation.
Conclusions: This is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive analysis of the virulence profile of S. dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis, and it enables novel insights into the pathogen's genetic basis of disease propensity shared with GAS. Human group C and group G streptococci may not be considered to be separate species; in fact, they may constitute 2 distinct lineages. Additional incongruent relationships were observed between virulence profiles and GCS/GGS disease propensity.