Biochemical and molecular genetic studies were performed on four unknown Gram-stain-positive, catalase-negative, coccus-shaped organisms isolated from tonsils (n = 3) and nasal samples (n = 1) of four wild rabbits. The micro-organism was identified as a streptococcal species based on its cellular morphological and biochemical tests. Comparative 16S rRNA gene sequencing confirmed its identification as a member of the genus Streptococcus, but the organism did not correspond to any recognized species of this genus. The closest phylogenetic relative of the unknown cocci from wild rabbits was Streptococcus acidominimus NCIMB 702025(T) (97.9% 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity). rpoB and sodA sequence analysis of the novel isolate showed interspecies divergence of 16.2% and 20.3%, respectively, from the type strain of its closest 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic relative, S. acidominimus. The novel bacterial isolate could be distinguished from the type strain of S. acidominimus by several biochemical characteristics, such as the production of esterase C4, acid phosphatase and naphthol-AS-BI-phosphohydrolase and acidification of different sugars. Based on both phenotypic and phylogenetic findings, it is proposed that the unknown bacterium be classified as a novel species of the genus Streptococcus, Streptococcus cuniculi sp. nov. The type strain is NED12-00049-6B(T) ( = CECT 8498(T) = CCUG 65085(T)).
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