Purpose. Group B Streptococcus (S. agalactiae, GBS) is a Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen that inhabits the respiratory, urogenital and gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals. Maternal colonization of GBS is a risk factor for a spectrum of clinical diseases in humans and a principle cause of neonatal meningitis and septicaemia.
Methodology. We describe polymicrobial sepsis including GBS in two gravid adult female Long–Evans rats experiencing acute mortality from a colony of long-term breeding pairs. Fluorescent in situ hybridization confirmed GBS association with pathological changes in affected tissues, including the heart and uterus.
Results. Characterization of seven GBS strains obtained from clinically affected and non-affected animals indicated similar antibiotic resistance and susceptibility patterns to that of human strains of GBS. The rat strains have virulence factors known to contribute to pathogenicity, and shared serotypes with human invasive isolates. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that one rat-derived GBS strain was more closely related to human-derived strains than other rat-derived strains, strengthening the notion that interspecies transmission is possible.
Conclusions. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of genotypic and phenotypic features of rat-derived GBS strains and their comparison to human- and other animal-derived GBS strains. Since GBS commonly colonizes commercially available rats, its exclusion as a potential pathogen for immunocompromised or stressed animals is recommended.