Antimicrobials Against Streptococci, Pneumococci and Enterococci

Abstract

Streptococci, pneumococci and enterococci are Gram‐positive bacteria, which cause significant morbidity and mortality in humans, and can also reside in their human host without causing disease. Streptococci are usually classified by their haemolytic reactions (beta‐, alpha‐ and nonhemolytic) or Lancefield antigen groups A, B, C, F, G and L. Enterococci were actually once classified as Group D streptococci, but as a result of chemotaxic and molecular studies are now considered to be a separate genus. Although effective antibiotic treatments exist, threats to public health are posed by antibiotic‐resistant strains of these bacteria. Organisms can be intrinsically resistant to antibiotics or can become resistant through acquisition of mutations or genes, which render a particular antimicrobial agent ineffective in killing or suppressing the organism. This article will describe diseases caused by streptococci, pneumococci and enterococci, and discuss the antimicrobial agents used to combat infections with these organisms.

Key Concepts:

  • Streptococci, pneumococci and enterococci are extremely common among humans and are capable of causing a wide range of disease.

  • Group A streptococci cause millions of skin and throat infections per year and are especially common in school‐aged children.

  • Group A streptococci are usually easily treatable but may become invasive causing serious disease or death.

  • Group B streptococci are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in newborns, however rigorous screening and prophylactic treatment of pregnant women, and monitoring and treatment of infections in newborns have radically reduced Group B streptococcal disease.

  • Pneumococci are the leading cause of community‐acquired pneumonia and otitis media.

  • Enterococci are a frequent cause of nosocomial infections and are usually multiply resistant to antimicrobial agents.

  • Antimicrobial resistance in streptococci, pneumococci and enterococci is a major healthcare problem worldwide, illustrating the need for development of effective agents against these organisms and prudent use of all antibiotics.

Keywords: antibiotics; streptococci; pneumococci; enterococci; antibiotic resistance

Figure 1.

Mechanisms of action for antibiotics. Reproduced from Pratt C and Cornely K (2004) Essential Biochemistry. John Wiley and Sons: NY, USA.

Figure 2.

Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. Reproduced from Pratt C and Cornely K (2004) Essential Biochemistry. John Wiley and Sons: NY, USA.

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Donabedian, Susan, and Shoyinka, Adenike(Jan 2012) Antimicrobials Against Streptococci, Pneumococci and Enterococci. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001997.pub3]