Use of Phenotypic and Molecular Serotype Identification Methods To Characterize Previously Nonserotypeable Group B Streptococci
Lotte Munch Lambertsen,
Gwendolyn L. Gilbert
Among 1,762 isolates of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococcus [GBS]), 207 (12%) initially nonserotypeable isolates were tested by improved conventional serotyping methods (Lancefield antigen extraction with 0.1 and 0.2 N HCl, latex agglutination assays, and use of antisera against all known serotypes [Ia, Ib, and II to IX]) and a molecular serotype identification system (multiplex PCR-based reverse line blot [mPCR/RLB] assays targeting serotype-specific sites in the region spanning cpsH to cpsM). Serotypes were assigned to 71 (34%) of the 207 isolates by using antisera and to 204 (98.5%) of them by mPCR/RLB. Sequencing of a portion of the cpsE-cpsF-cpsG region of 141 persistently nonserotypeable isolates and 1 with discrepant conventional and molecular serotyping results was attempted. Major mutations were identified in 34 isolates (24%), including 11 (8%) from which no amplicons were obtained and 23 (16%) with sequence variation compared with published sequences; of the latter, 21 (15%) were associated with amino acid changes. By contrast, mutations were identified in only 12 (2.3%) of 516 serotypeable isolates for which this region has been sequenced previously. In summary, an improved serotyping scheme allowed serotype identification of more than one-third of the previously nonserotypeable GBS isolates. Molecular serotypes were assigned to almost all of the isolates by mPCR/RLB. Significant mutations (with no amplicons or with associated amino acid changes) were found in the cpsE-cpsF-cspG region of a higher proportion of nonserotypeable than of serotypeable isolates (32/141 versus 8/516; P < 0.001), but further investigation is needed to determine the genetic basis for most nonserotypeable GBS isolates.