Highly penicillin-resistant multidrug-resistant pneumococcus-like strains colonizing children in Oeiras, Portugal: genomic characteristics and implications for surveillance

J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Jan;48(1):238-46. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01313-09. Epub 2009 Nov 11.


While performing surveillance studies in Oeiras, Portugal, designed to describe the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on colonization, we observed an increase from 0.7% in 2003 to 5% in 2006 in the prevalence of penicillin resistance (MIC of 2 to 6 mg/liter) among presumptively identified pneumococcal isolates. Although 15 of the 22 penicillin-resistant isolates obtained in 2006 were optochin resistant, they were bile soluble and thus considered to be bona fide pneumococci. This study aimed to clarify the nature of these isolates by using a combination of phenotypic and genotypic approaches that included routine strategies for pneumococcal identification, multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA), and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). By MLSA, all isolates were classified as "streptococci of the mitis group" that, however, were distinct from typical Streptococcus pneumoniae or Streptococcus mitis. A single isolate was identified as Streptococcus pseudopneumoniae. CGH confirmed these findings and further indicated that a considerable part of the proposed pneumococcal core genome is conserved in these isolates, including several pneumococcal virulence genes (e.g., pavA, spxB, cbpE, and cbpD). These results suggest that among pneumococci and closely related streptococci, universal unique phenotypic and genetic properties that could aid species identification are virtually impossible to define. In pneumococcal colonization studies, when atypical strains are found, MLSA and CGH are informative tools that can be used to complement routine tests. In our study, after correct identification of the penicillin-resistant true pneumococci, we found that penicillin resistance levels among pneumococci remained stable from 2003 to 2006.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Streptococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Streptococcus / classification*
  • Streptococcus / drug effects
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification*
  • Streptococcus mitis / classification
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / classification
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Virulence Factors