Preventive strategies involving the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) are known to drastically reduce pneumococcal disease. However, PCV vaccination has been plagued with serotype replacement by non-PCV serotypes. In this study, we describe the prevalence and molecular characteristics of non-PCV13 serotypes (non-vaccine serotypes, NVTs) from pneumococcal carriage isolates obtained from children < 5 years old in Cape Coast, Ghana, after PCV introduction. The isolates were subjected to antibiotic susceptibility testing and multilocus sequence typing (MLST), and molecular techniques were used to detect the presence of virulence genes. Serotypes 11A, 13, 15B, 23B, and 34 formed the top five of the 93 NVT isolates. As such, 20 (21.5%), 49 (48.4%), and 70 (74.3%) isolates were non-susceptible to penicillin, tetracycline, and cotrimoxazole, respectively. Sixteen (17.2%) multidrug-resistant isolates were identified. However, non-susceptibility to ceftriaxone and erythromycin was low and all isolates were fully susceptible to levofloxacin, linezolid, and vancomycin. Whereas pcpA, pavB, lytA, and psrP genes were detected in nearly all serotypes, pilus islet genes were limited to serotypes 11A, 13, and 23B. MLST for predominant serotype 23B isolates revealed three known and seven novel sequence types (STs). ST172 and novel ST15111 were the most dominant and both STs were related to PMEN clone Columbia23F-26 (ST338). In conclusion, non-PCV13 serotype 23B was the most prevalent, with characteristics of rapid clonal expansion of ST172 and ST15111, which are related to international clones of the pneumococcus. Continuous monitoring of NVTs in Ghana is, therefore, essential, as they have the potential to cause invasive disease, show high antibiotic resistance, and attenuate the effects of PCV vaccination.
Keywords: MLST 5; Streptococcus pneumoniae 1; antibiotic susceptibility 4; non-PCV13 serotypes 2; virulence genes 3.