(1) Background: Streptococcus suis is an important zoonotic pathogen that infects pigs and can occasionally cause life-threatening systemic infections in humans. Two large-scale outbreaks of streptococcal toxic shock-like syndrome in China suggest that the pathogenicity of S. suis has been changing in recent years. Genetic analysis revealed the presence of a chromosomal pathogenicity island (PAI) designated SsPI-1 in Chinese epidemic S. suis strains. The purpose of this study is to define the role of SsPI-1 in the virulence of S. suis. (2) Methods: A SsPI-1 deletion mutant was compared to the wild-type strain regarding the ability to attach to epithelial cells, to cause host disease and mortality, and to stimulate host immune response in experimental infection of piglets. (3) Results: Deletion of SsPI-1 significantly reduces adherence of S. suis to epithelial cells and abolishes the lethality of the wild-type strain in piglets. The SsPI-1 mutant causes no significant pathological lesions and exhibits an impaired ability to induce proinflammatory cytokine production. (4) Conclusions: Deletion of the SsPI-1 PAI attenuates the virulence of this pathogen. We conclude that SsPI-1 is a critical contributor to the evolution of virulence in epidemic S. suis.
Keywords: Streptococcus suis; deletion; pathogenicity island; virulence.