Molecular Epidemiology, Ecology, and Evolution of Group A Streptococci
Microbiology and Immunology
The clinico-epidemiological features of diseases caused by group A streptococci (GAS) is presented through the lens of the ecology, population genetics, and evolution of the organism. The serological targets of three typing schemes (M, T, SOF) are themselves GAS cell surface proteins that have a myriad of virulence functions and a diverse array of structural forms. Horizontal gene transfer expands the GAS antigenic cell surface repertoire by generating numerous combinations of M, T, and SOF antigens. However, horizontal gene transfer of the serotype determinant genes is not unconstrained, and therein lies a genetic organization that may signify adaptations to a narrow ecological niche, such as the primary tissue reservoirs of the human host. Adaptations may be further shaped by selection pressures such as herd immunity. Understanding the molecular evolution of GAS on multiple levels-short, intermediate, and long term-sheds insight on mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions, the emergence and spread of new clones, rational vaccine design, and public health interventions.
Bessen, D., Smeesters, P., & Beall, B. (2018). Molecular Epidemiology, Ecology, and Evolution of Group A Streptococci. Microbiology Spectrum, 6 (5). https://doi.org/10.1128/microbiolspec.CPP3-0009-2018