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1.  Streptococcus pneumoniae detects and responds to foreign bacterial peptide fragments in its environment 
Open Biology  2014;4(4):130224.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important cause of bacterial meningitis and pneumonia but usually colonizes the human nasopharynx harmlessly. As this niche is simultaneously populated by other bacterial species, we looked for a role and pathway of communication between pneumococci and other species. This paper shows that two proteins of non-encapsulated S. pneumoniae, AliB-like ORF 1 and ORF 2, bind specifically to peptides matching other species resulting in changes in the pneumococci. AliB-like ORF 1 binds specifically peptide SETTFGRDFN, matching 50S ribosomal subunit protein L4 of Enterobacteriaceae, and facilitates upregulation of competence for genetic transformation. AliB-like ORF 2 binds specifically peptides containing sequence FPPQS, matching proteins of Prevotella species common in healthy human nasopharyngeal microbiota. We found that AliB-like ORF 2 mediates the early phase of nasopharyngeal colonization in vivo. The ability of S. pneumoniae to bind and respond to peptides of other bacterial species occupying the same host niche may play a key role in adaptation to its environment and in interspecies communication. These findings reveal a completely new concept of pneumococcal interspecies communication which may have implications for communication between other bacterial species and for future interventional therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4043112  PMID: 24718598
Streptococcus pneumoniae, bacteria; peptide; interspecies communication; non-encapsulated
2.  16S rRNA Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism for the Characterization of the Nasopharyngeal Microbiota 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52241.
A novel non-culture based 16S rRNA Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (T-RFLP) method using the restriction enzymes Tsp509I and Hpy166II was developed for the characterization of the nasopharyngeal microbiota and validated using recently published 454 pyrosequencing data. 16S rRNA gene T-RFLP for 153 clinical nasopharyngeal samples from infants with acute otitis media (AOM) revealed 5 Tsp509I and 6 Hpy166II terminal fragments (TFs) with a prevalence of >10%. Cloning and sequencing identified all TFs with a prevalence >6% allowing a sufficient description of bacterial community changes for the most important bacterial taxa. The conjugated 7-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PCV-7) and prior antibiotic exposure had significant effects on the bacterial composition in an additive main effects and multiplicative interaction model (AMMI) in concordance with the 16S rRNA 454 pyrosequencing data. In addition, the presented T-RFLP method is able to discriminate S. pneumoniae from other members of the Mitis group of streptococci, which therefore allows the identification of one of the most important human respiratory tract pathogens. This is usually not achieved by current high throughput sequencing protocols. In conclusion, the presented 16S rRNA gene T-RFLP method is a highly robust, easy to handle and a cheap alternative to the computationally demanding next-generation sequencing analysis. In case a lot of nasopharyngeal samples have to be characterized, it is suggested to first perform 16S rRNA T-RFLP and only use next generation sequencing if the T-RFLP nasopharyngeal patterns differ or show unknown TFs.
PMCID: PMC3527403  PMID: 23284951
3.  Transmission Dynamics of Extended-Spectrum β-lactamase–Producing Enterobacteriaceae in the Tertiary Care Hospital and the Household Setting 
Transmission of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)–producing Enterobacteriaceae in households outweighs nosocomial dissemination in the non-outbreak setting. Importation of ESBL producers into the hospitals is as frequent as transmission during hospital stay. ESBL–Klebsiella pneumoniae might be more efficiently transmitted within the hospital than ESBL–Escherichia coli.
Background. Studies about transmission rates of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)–producing Enterobacteriaceae in hospitals and households are scarce.
Methods. Eighty-two index patients with new carriage of ESBL-producing Escherichia coli (ESBL-Ec; n = 72) or ESBL-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae (ESBL-Kp; n = 10) and their hospital (n = 112) and household (n = 96) contacts were studied prospectively from May 2008 through September 2010. Isolates were phenotypically and molecularly characterized (sequencing of bla genes, repetitive extragenic palindromic polymerase chain reaction, pulse-field gel electrophoresis, and multilocus sequence typing). Transmission was defined as carriage of a clonally-related ESBL producer with identical blaESBL gene(s) in the index patient and his or her contact(s).
Results. CTX-M-15 was the most prevalent ESBL in ESBL-Ec (58%) and ESBL-Kp (70%) in the index patients. Twenty (28%) ESBL-Ec isolates were of the hyperepidemic clone ST131. In the hospital, transmission rates were 4.5% (ESBL-Ec) and 8.3% (ESBL-Kp) and the incidences of transmissions were 5.6 (Ec) and 13.9 (Kp) per 1000 exposure days, respectively. Incidence of ESBL-Kp hospital transmission was significantly higher than that of ESBL-Ec (P < .0001), despite implementation of infection control measures in 75% of ESBL-Kp index patients but only 22% of ESBL-Ec index patients. Detection of ESBL producers not linked to an index patient was as frequent (ESBL-Ec, 5.7%; ESBL-Kp, 16.7%) as nosocomial transmission events. In households, transmission rates were 23% for ESBL-Ec and 25% for ESBL-Kp.
Conclusions. Household outweighs nosocomial transmission of ESBL producers. The effect of hospital infection control measures may differ between different species and clones of ESBL producers.
PMCID: PMC3436924  PMID: 22718774
4.  Multiple Colonization with S. pneumoniae before and after Introduction of the Seven-Valent Conjugated Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11638.
Simultaneous carriage of more than one strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae promotes horizontal gene transfer events and may lead to capsule switch and acquisition of antibiotic resistance. We studied the epidemiology of cocolonization with S. pneumoniae before and after introduction of the seven-valent conjugated pneumococcal vaccine (PCV7).
Nasopharyngeal swabs (n 1120) were collected from outpatients between 2004 and 2009 within an ongoing nationwide surveillance program. Cocolonization was detected directly from swabs by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. Serotypes were identified by agglutination, multiplex PCR and microarray.
Principal Findings
Rate of multiple colonization remained stable up to three years after PCV7 introduction. Cocolonization was associated with serotypes of low carriage prevalence in the prevaccine era. Pneumococcal colonization density was higher in cocolonized samples and cocolonizing strains were present in a balanced ratio (median 1.38). Other characteristics of cocolonization were a higher frequency at young age, but no association with recurrent acute otitis media, recent antibiotic exposure, day care usage and PCV7 vaccination status.
Pneumococcal cocolonization is dominated by serotypes of low carriage prevalence in the prevaccine era, which coexist in the nasopharynx. Emergence of such previously rare serotypes under vaccine selection pressure may promote cocolonization in the future.
PMCID: PMC2905437  PMID: 20661289
5.  Use of the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer for Rapid and Reproducible Molecular Typing of Streptococcus pneumoniae▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2007;45(3):803-809.
Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis is an economic and fast technique for molecular typing but has the drawback of difficulties in accurately sizing DNA fragments and comparing banding patterns on agarose gels. We aimed to improve RFLP for typing of the important human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae and to compare the results with the commonly used typing techniques of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus sequence typing. We designed primers to amplify a noncoding region adjacent to the pneumolysin gene. The PCR product was digested separately with six restriction endonucleases, and the DNA fragments were analyzed using an Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer for accurate sizing. The combined RFLP results for all enzymes allowed us to assign each of the 47 clinical isolates of S. pneumoniae tested to one of 33 RFLP types. RFLP analyzed using the bioanalyzer allowed discrimination between strains similar to that obtained by the more commonly used techniques of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, which discriminated between 34 types, and multilocus sequence typing, which discriminated between 35 types, but more quickly and with less expense. RFLP of a noncoding region using the Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer could be a useful addition to the molecular typing techniques in current use for S. pneumoniae, especially as a first screen of a local population.
PMCID: PMC1829109  PMID: 17202282
6.  An Internationally Spread Clone of Streptococcus pneumoniae Evolves from Low-Level to Higher-Level Penicillin Resistance by Uptake of Penicillin-Binding Protein Gene Fragments from Nonencapsulated Pneumococci 
Low-level penicillin resistance in an international Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 19F clone emerging in Switzerland was characterized by mutations in the penicillin-binding protein PBP2x. Some isolates of this clone had evolved to higher resistance levels (penicillin MICs of 0.094 and 1 μg/ml), probably by acquisition of pbp2x fragments from local nonencapsulated pneumococci.
PMCID: PMC514746  PMID: 15328127
7.  A Homologue of aliB Is Found in the Capsule Region of Nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(12):3721-3729.
The epidemiology, phylogeny, and biology of nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae are largely unknown. Increased colonization capacity and transformability are, however, intriguing features of these pneumococci and play an important role. Twenty-seven nonencapsulated pneumococci were identified in a nationwide collection of 1,980 nasopharyngeal samples and 215 blood samples obtained between 1998 and 2002. On the basis of multilocus sequence typing and capsule region analysis we divided the nonencapsulated pneumococci into two groups. Group I was closely related to encapsulated strains. Group II had a clonal population structure, including two geographically widespread clones able to cause epidemic conjunctivitis and invasive diseases. Group II strains also carried a 1,959-bp homologue of aliB (aliB-like ORF 2) in the capsule region, which was highly homologous to a sequence in the capsule region of Streptococcus mitis. In addition, strains of the two major clones in group II had an additional sequence, aliB-like ORF 1 (1,968 to 2,004 bp), upstream of aliB-like ORF 2. Expression of aliB-like ORF 1 was detected by reverse transcription-PCR, and the corresponding RNA was visualized by Northern blotting. A gene fragment homologous to capN of serotypes 33 and 37 suggests that group II strains were derived from encapsulated pneumococci some time ago. Therefore, loss of capsule expression in vivo was found to be associated with the importation of one or two aliB homologues in some nonencapsulated pneumococci.
PMCID: PMC419944  PMID: 15175285
8.  Low-Level Resistance to Rifampin in Streptococcus pneumoniae 
Rifampin is recommended for combination therapy of meningitis due to β-lactam-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae. High-level rifampin resistance (MIC, ≥4 mg/liter) has been mapped to point mutations in clusters I and III of rpoB of the pneumococcus. The molecular basis of low-level resistance (MICs, ≥0.5 and <4 mg/liter) was analyzed. Spontaneous mutants of clinical pneumococcal isolates were selected on Columbia sheep blood agar plates containing rifampin at 0.5, 4, 10, or 50 mg/liter. Low-level resistance could be assigned to mutations in cluster II (I545N, I545L). Sensitive (MIC, <0.048 mg/liter) wild-type strains acquired low-level resistance at a rate approximately 10 times higher than that at which they acquired high-level resistance (average mutation frequencies, 2.4 × 10−7 for low-level resistance versus 2.9 × 10−8 for high-level resistance [P < 0.0001]). In second-step experiments, the frequencies of mutations from low- to high-level resistance were over 10 times higher than the frequencies of mutations from susceptibility to high-level resistance (average mutation frequencies, 7.2 × 10−7 versus 5.0 × 10−8 [P < 0.001]). Mutants with low-level resistance were stable upon passage. Sequencing of a clinical isolate with low-level resistance (MIC, 0.5 mg/liter) revealed a Q150R mutation upstream of cluster I. The frequencies of mutations to high-level resistance for this strain were even higher than the rates observed for the in vitro mutants. Therefore, a resistance-mediating mutation located outside clusters I, II, and III has been described for the first time in the pneumococcus. In vitro low-level rifampin resistance in S. pneumoniae could be mapped to cluster II of rpoB. Mutants of pneumococcus with low-level resistance may be selected in vivo during therapy in tissue compartments with low antibiotic concentrations and play a role in the development of resistance.
PMCID: PMC149310  PMID: 12604513

Results 1-8 (8)