Streptococcus agalactiae (also called Group B Streptococcus, or GBS) is a versatile pathogen that affects a variety of animals. Now studies by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their university colleagues are revealing new information about this pathogen.

The symptoms of GBS vary from animal to animal. In cattle, GBS is associated with mastitis — which costs the U.S. cattle industry about $2 billion annually.

To learn more about the emergence and transmission of GBS, scientists compared GBS samples, or "isolates," collected from infected fish, dolphins, cattle and humans.

The scientists collected the genetic material from several fish species in the United States, Latin America and the Middle East; a bottlenose dolphin in Kuwait; humans and cattle in North America, and humans in Japan.

The scientists used a technique known as multilocus sequence typing (MLST) to examine similarities and differences between the genes of the GBS isolates.

Using MLST data, the researchers discovered five previously unknown sequence types that were genetically unrelated to any known GBS sequence types. These novel genetic, serotypic and phenotypic strains will be explored for genes, unique antigens or virulence factors that may be involved in inducing protective immunity, and therefore could be potential candidates for superior vaccine efficacy against GBS in cattle and fish.

This research was published in several scientific journals between 2006 and 2009, most recently in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology and the May 2009 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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Source: USDA-ARS