Pneumococcal type 1 pilus proteins have been proposed as potential vaccine candidates. Following conjugate pneumococcal vaccination, the prevalence of the pneumococcal type 1 pilus declined dramatically, a decline associated with the elimination of vaccine-type (VT) strains. Here we show that between 2004 and 2007, there has been a significant increase in pilus prevalence, now exceeding rates from the pre-conjugate vaccine era. This increase is primarily due to non-VT strains. These emerging piliated non-VT strains are mostly novel clones, with some exceptions. The rise in pilus type 1 frequency across multiple distinct genetic backgrounds suggests that the pilus may confer an intrinsic advantage.
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