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Biofilm formation enhances fomite survival of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes

Both Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae are widely regarded to rapidly die outside of the human host, losing infectivity following desiccation in the environment. However, to date, all literature investigating the infectivity of desiccated streptococci has used broth-grown, planktonic populations. In this study, we examined the impact of biofilm formation on environmental survival of clinical and laboratory isolates of
S. pyogenes and S. pneumoniae as both organisms are thought to colonize the human host as biofilms. Results clearly demonstrate that while planktonic cells that are desiccated rapidly lose viability both on hands and abiotic surfaces, such as plastic, biofilm bacteria remain viable over extended periods of time outside the host and remain infectious in a murine colonization model. To explore the level and extent of streptococcal fomite contamination that children might be exposed to naturally, direct bacteriologic cultures of items in a day-care center were conducted, which demonstrated high levels of viable streptococci of both species. These findings raise the possibility that streptococci may survive in the environment and be transferred from person to person via fomites contaminated with oropharyngeal secretions containing biofilm streptococci.

Author: Marks LR, Reddinger RM, Hakansson AP

Citation: Infect Immun. 2014 Mar;82(3):1141-6. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01310-13. Epub 2013 Dec 26.

Published: 18/03/2014

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: Infection and Immunity