BACKGROUND - Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a leading cause of sepsis and meningitis and an important factor in premature and stillbirths. Biofilm production has been suggested to be important for GBS pathogenesis alongside many other elements, including phylogenetic lineage and virulence factors, such as pili and capsule type. A complete understanding of the confluence of these components, however, is lacking. To identify associations between biofilm phenotype, pilus profile and lineage, 293 strains from asymptomatic carriers, invasive disease cases, and bovine mastitis cases, were assessed for biofilm production using an in vitro assay.
RESULTS - Multilocus sequence type (ST) profile, pilus island profile, and isolate source were associated with biofilm production. Strains from invasive disease cases and/or belonging to the ST-17 and ST-19 lineages were significantly more likely to form weak biofilms, whereas strains producing strong biofilms were recovered more frequently from individuals with asymptomatic colonization.
CONCLUSIONS - These data suggest that biofilm production is a lineage-specific trait in GBS and may promote colonization of strains representing lineages other than STs 17 and 19. The findings herein also demonstrate that biofilms must be considered in the treatment of pregnant women, particularly for women with heavy GBS colonization.