Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B Streptococcus, GBS) is a Gram-positive encapsulated bacterium, found in the digestive and vaginal tracts of 20-30% healthy individuals. It is the leading cause of neonatal invasive infections (septicaemia and meningitis). Two GBS-associated syndromes have been recognized in neonates, the early-onset disease (EOD) and the late-onset disease (LOD), which occur in the first week of life (age 0-6 days) and after (age 7 days-3 months), respectively. Since the establishment of early antibiotic prophylaxis there has been a decrease in the incidence of EOD. However, LOD incidence remains stable. Epidemiological studies revealed a strong association between LOD and a single capsular serotype III ST-17 clone. This ST-17 clone, referred to as the "hypervirulent" clone, possesses specific virulence factors that could account for its increased virulence and neonatal tropism. Conjugate vaccines directed against several capsular serotypes are being developed to prevent invasive disease. However, hypervirulent strains having made a switch to a capsular serotype not covered by such vaccines are emerging, reinforcing the need to identify new candidate vaccines.
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