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Variation of growth characteristics of pneumococcus with environmental conditions.

Abstract

Most isolates grew to the maximal density at low temperatures (~33C) and under aerobic conditions. There was considerable variability between strains, and some of this variability was linked to serotype. However, capsule-switch experiments suggest that the production of different capsules might not be sufficient to explain this variation, suggesting there could be interactions between the capsule and genetic background.

Pneumococcus is exposed to a variety of temperature and oxygen levels in the upper respiratory tract and as it invades the lung, tissues, and blood. We sought to determine the effect of environmental variability on growth in vitro and to assess variability between strains. We evaluated the effect of temperature and oxygen on the growth of 256 isolates representing 53 serotypes, recovered from healthy carriers and disease patients. Strains were grown at a range of temperatures, anaerobically or in ambient air with catalase, and were monitored by reading the optical density. Regression models evaluated variation in the characteristics of the growth curves.

Pneumococcal strains vary in how they respond to environmental variations, some of this variation can be explained by the capsule type being produced, but capsule production itself is not sufficient to explain the variability. This variability could help to explain why different lineages of pneumococcus are more common in carriage or disease.

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