Serotype-specific polysaccharide based group B streptococcus (GBS) vaccines are being developed. An understanding of the serotype epidemiology associated with maternal colonization and invasive disease in infants is necessary to determine the potential coverage of serotype-specific GBS vaccines.
Colonizing GBS isolates were identified by vaginal swabbing of mothers during active labor and from skin of their newborns post-delivery. Invasive GBS isolates from infants were identified through laboratory-based surveillance. GBS serotyping was done by latex agglutination. Serologically non-typeable isolates were typed by a serotype-specific PCR method. The invasive potential of GBS serotypes associated with sepsis within seven days of birth was evaluated in association to maternal colonizing serotypes.
GBS was identified in 289 (52.4%) newborns born to 551 women with GBS-vaginal colonization and from 113 (5.6%) newborns born to 2,010 mothers in whom GBS was not cultured from vaginal swabs. The serotype distribution among vaginal-colonizing isolates was as follows: III (37.3%), Ia (30.1%), and II (11.3%), V (10.2%), Ib (6.7%) and IV (3.7%). There were no significant differences in serotype distribution between vaginal and newborn colonizing isolates (P = 0.77). Serotype distribution of invasive GBS isolates were significantly different to that of colonizing isolates (P<0.0001). Serotype III was the most common invasive serotype in newborns less than 7 days (57.7%) and in infants 7 to 90 days of age (84.3%; P<0.001). Relative to serotype III, other serotypes showed reduced invasive potential: Ia (0.49; 95%CI 0.31–0.77), II (0.30; 95%CI 0.13–0.67) and V (0.38; 95%CI 0.17–0.83).
In South Africa, an anti-GBS vaccine including serotypes Ia, Ib and III has the potential of preventing 74.1%, 85.4% and 98.2% of GBS associated with maternal vaginal-colonization, invasive disease in neonates less than 7 days and invasive disease in infants between 7–90 days of age, respectively.