Remarkable genome stability among emm1 Group A Streptococcus in Belgium over 19 Years

Jasmine Coppens, Basil Britto Xavier, Katherine Loens, Christine Lammens, Margareta Ieven, Veerle Matheeussen, Herman Goossens, Surbhi Malhotra-Kumar

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During the last two decades, there has been a public health concern of severe invasive infections caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) of the emm1 genotype. This study investigated the dynamics of emm1 GAS during 1994-2013 in Belgium. emm1 GAS isolated from blood, tissue, and wounds of patients with invasive infections (n = 23, S1-S23), and from patients with uncomplicated pharyngitis (n = 15, NS1-NS15) were subjected to whole-genome mapping (WGM; kpn) (Opgen). Whole-genome sequencing was performed on 25 strains (WGS; S1-S23 and NS6-NS7) (Illumina Inc.). Belgian GAS belonged to the M1T1 clone typified by the 36-kb chromosomal region encoding extracellular toxins, NAD+-glycohydrolase and streptolysin O. Strains from 1994-1999 clustered together with published strains (MGAS5005 and M1476). From 2001 onward, invasive GAS showed higher genomic divergence in the accessory genome and harbored on average 7% prophage content. Low evolutionary rate (2.49E-008; P > 0.05) was observed in this study, indicating a highly stable genome. The studied invasive and pharyngitis isolates were no genetically distinct populations based on the WGM and core genome phylogeny analyses. Two copies of the speJ superantigen were present in the 1999 and 2010 study strains (n = 3), one being chromosomal and one being truncated and associated with phage remnants. This study showed that emm1 GAS in Belgium, compared with Canada and UK M1 strains, were highly conserved by harboring a remarkable genome stability over a 19-year period with variations observed in the accessory genome.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1432-1439
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Belgium/epidemiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial/genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genomic Instability
  • Interspersed Repetitive Sequences
  • Streptococcal Infections/epidemiology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes/genetics
  • Superantigens/genetics
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


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