We determined the toxin-gene profiles of 239 endemic, invasive group A streptococcal (GAS) isolates that circulated, within a 5-year period, in European university hospitals. Profiling was performed by use of multiplex polymerase chain reaction that screened for 9 streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxins (speA, speB, speC, speF, speG, speH, speJ, ssa, and smeZ). Analysis revealed that invasive GAS isolates do not share a common toxin-gene profile. Although all emm types were characterized by several different toxin-gene profiles, a predominance of 1 or 2 toxin-gene profiles could be observed, reflecting that a few invasive clones have spread successfully throughout the world. Remarkably, statistical pair-wise analysis of individual toxin genes revealed that strains that did not share the predominant profile still showed a nonrandom distribution of key toxin genes characteristic of the specific emm type. This could indicate that M proteins function, directly or indirectly, as barriers for horizontal gene exchange.
2003. Vol. 188, no 10, 1578-1586 p.