Publication Details

This article was originally published as Walker, MJ et al, DNase Sda1 provides selection pressure for a switch to invasive group A streptococcal infection, Nature Medicine 13, 2007, 981-985.


Most invasive bacterial infections are caused by species that more commonly colonize the human host with minimal symptoms. Although phenotypic or genetic correlates underlying a bacterium’s shift to enhanced virulence have been studied, the in vivo selection pressure governing such shifts are poorly understood. The globally disseminated M1T1 clone of group A Streptococcus (GAS) is linked with rare but life-threatening syndromes of necrotizing fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome. Mutations in the GAS control of virulence regulatory sensor kinase (covRS) operon are associated with severe invasive disease, abolishing expression of a broad spectrum cysteine protease (SpeB)2,3 and allowing the recruitment and activation of host plasminogen on the bacterial surface. Here we describe how bacteriophage-encoded GAS DNase (Sda1), which facilitates the pathogen’s escape from neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs)5,6, serves as a selective force for covRS mutation. The results provide a paradigm whereby natural selection exerted by the innate immune system generate hypervirulent bacterial variants with increased risk of systemic dissemination.

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