Group B Streptococcus Capsular Serotype Alters Vaginal Colonization Fitness.

01 Jun 2022
Dammann AN, Chamby AB, Gonzalez FJ, Sharp ME, Flores K, Shahi I, Dongas S, Hooven TA, Ratner AJ


Group B Streptococcus (GBS) remains a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality. A candidate vaccine targets 6 GBS serotypes, offering a potential alternative to intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis to reduce disease burden. However, our understanding of the contributions of specific capsule types to GBS colonization and disease remains limited.


Using allelic exchange, we generated isogenic GBS strains differing only in the serotype-determining region in 2 genetic backgrounds, including the hypervirulent clonal complex (CC) 17. Using a murine model of vaginal cocolonization, we evaluated the roles of the presence of capsule and of expression of specific capsular types in GBS vaginal colonization fitness independent of other genetic factors.


Encapsulated wild-type strains COH1 (CC17, serotype III) and A909 (non-CC17, serotype Ia) outcompeted isogenic acapsular mutants in murine vaginal cocolonization. COH1 wild type outcompeted A909. Notably, expression of type Ia capsule conferred an advantage over type III capsule in both genetic backgrounds.


Specific capsule types may provide an advantage in GBS vaginal colonization in vivo. However, success of certain GBS lineages, including CC17, likely involves both capsule and noncapsule genetic elements. Capsule switching in GBS, a potential outcome of conjugate vaccine programs, may alter colonization fitness or pathogenesis.