Intracellular survival of persistent Group A streptococci in cultured epithelial cells

Mehran J. Marouni, Asher Barzilai, N. Keller, Eitan Rubinstein, Shlomo Sela

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22 Scopus citations


Group A streptococcus (GAS) is the principle etiologic agent of bacterial pharyngotonsillitis and a wide range of other diseases. Failure to eradicate GAS from patients has been documented in 5-30% of patients with pharyngotonsillitis, in spite of the continued sensitivity of GAS to penicillin and other beta-lactams. It was recently proposed that eradication failure might be attributed to the ability of GAS to maintain an intracellular reservoir during antibiotic treatment. We have previously shown that strains derived from patients with bacterial eradication failure, despite antibiotic treatment (persistent strains), adhered to and were internalized by cultured epithelial cells more efficiently than strains that were successfully eradicated. Since, penicillin and other beta-lactams do not penetrate well into mammalian cells, intracellular survival of GAS is crucial in order to persist during prolonged antibiotic treatment. In this study, we compared the survival of GAS strains from cases of eradication failure and eradication success, using an epithelial cell culture model. We found that persistent strains show significantly increased intracellular survival, compared to the 'eradication success' strains. This finding supports the idea that an intracellular reservoir of GAS plays a role in the etiology of antibiotic eradication failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-33
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Eradication failure
  • Internalization
  • Intracellular survival
  • S. pyogenes


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