Background: Despite the increasing recognition of Kingella kingae as an important pathogen of early childhood, the relative frequency and invasiveness of different strains of the organism has not been investigated. A study was conducted to determine the association of K. kingae genotypes with specific clinical syndromes and the temporal and geographic distribution of invasive clones.
Methods: A collection of 181 invasive K. kingae strains, isolated between 1991 and 2012 from Israeli patients with bacteremia, skeletal system infections, or endocarditis, were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). In addition, the correspondence between PFGE, multilocus sequence types (MLSTs), and rtxA gene sequencing results was also examined for organisms belonging to the predominant PFGE clones isolated from asymptomatic carriers and patients with invasive infections.
Results: A total of 32 different K. kingae clones were identified by PFGE, of which 5 (B, H, K, N, and P) caused 72.9% of all invasive infections, and were recovered during the 21-year period from different regions of the country. Clone K was significantly associated with bacteremia, clone N with skeletal system infections, and clone P with bacterial endocarditis. Strains belonging to the same PFGE clone, either carried asymptomatically or causing different invasive infections, shared MLST complexes and exhibited identical or closely related rtxA alleles.
Conclusions: Although K. kingae exhibits noteworthy genetic heterogeneity, a limited number of distinct clones cause the majority of invasive infections in Israel, exhibiting genetic stability, long-term persistence, and wide geographic dispersal. K. kingae strains also show significant association with specific clinical syndromes.