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Streptococcus suis, a major porcine pathogen, is emerging as a zoonotic agent capable of causing severe invasive disease in humans exposed to pigs or pork products. S. suis infection is rare in industrialised countries and usually arises as sporadic cases, with meningitis the most common clinical presentation in humans. Recent reports of two cases of meningitis in Sardinia and north-eastern Italy prompted this first characterisation of Italian S. suis isolates. Fifty-nine S. suis strains, the two recent human strains and 57 swine clinical isolates collected between 2003 and 2007 from different Italian herds and regions, were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility, PCR-screened for virulence and antibiotic resistance genes, and subjected to molecular typing. Phenotypic and genotypic analysis demonstrated an overall high genetic diversity among isolates, the majority of which were resistant to macrolides (78%) and tetracyclines (90%). The erm(B), tet(O), mosaic tet(O/W/32/O), tet(W), and tet(M) genes were detected. The tet(O/W/32/O) gene, the most frequent tet gene after tet(O), had never been described in the genus Streptococcus before. In addition, a virulent cps2, erm(B) tet(O) clone, belonging to sequence type 1 (ST1) of the ST1 complex, was found to be prevalent and persistent in Italian swine herds. Finally, the two human isolates (both ST1) carrying cps2, erm(B) and tet(W) were seen to be closely related to each other.


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