Comparison of Specific In-vitro Virulence Gene Expression and Innate Host Response in Locally Invasive vs Colonizer Strains of Streptococcus Pneumoniae



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Medical Microbiology and Immunology


Among Rochester NY children, a dramatic increase in nasopharyngeal (NP) colonization by non-vaccine pneumococcal serotypes 35B and 15A occurred during years 2010-2015, after introduction of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). In our population, serotype 35B strains colonized in the nasopharynx (NP) but infrequently caused acute otitis media (AOM) whereas serotype 15A strains displayed virulence, evidenced by causing AOM. To explain the virulence difference, virulence genes expression between 35B and 15A, as well as the host's immune response during asymptomatic colonization were analyzed. We investigated differences in regulation of 19 virulence genes for differences in virulence using RT-PCR in 20 35B and 14 15A strains and measured gene expression of 9 host innate cytokines in the NP to assess the mucosal inflammatory response during asymptomatic colonization. Comparing 35B versus 15A strains, genes for competence ComA and RrgC were upregulated; capsular (Cps2D) and virulence genes (PfbA, PcpA and PhtE) were downregulated among 35B strains. PavB, LytA, LytB, NanA, CiaR, PhtD, LuxS, PspA and pneumolysin (Ply) showed no difference. IL17 and IL23 gene expression were > tenfold higher during 35B compared to 15A strain asymptomatic colonization. Only IL23 showed significant difference. In the first 5 years after introduction of PCV13, serotype 35B strains emerged as asymptomatic colonizers and 15A strains emerged to cause AOM in young children. Various genes (PfbA, PcpA, Cps2D and PhtE) among tested in this analysis were downregulated in 35B whereas ComA and RrgC were significantly upregulated. For the host's cytokine response, IL23 proinflammatory response which is essential for the differentiation of Th17 lymphocytes in the NP of children with 35B strains was significantly higher than the response to 15A during asymptomatic colonization.



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