Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Impaired phagocytosis and opsonisation towards group B streptococci in preterm neonates


AIMS To study the chemiluminescence response in polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNL) at different stages of maturity and the opsonic capacity of sera with defined titres of anti-capsular type III antibodies, after exposure to serotype III group B streptococci (GBS). The influence of GBS type III capsule expression on PMNL chemiluminescence response was also investigated.

METHODS Two clinical isolates of serotype III GBS and two serotype III reference strains which form isogenic variants with high and low amounts of capsule substance, respectively, were used. PMNL and sera were obtained from adult healthy blood donors, full term neonates, and preterm neonates.

RESULTS PMNL from premature infants showed a significantly lower chemiluminescence response (p<0.0001) than the PMNL from adults and neonates, while the chemiluminescence response with adult, neonatal, and preterm sera gradually diminished. In the presence of a serum pool with a standardised complement value, raised (>10 mg/l), rather than low (<1.0 mg/l) anti-III antibody titres induced a higher chemiluminescence response to the capsule expressing variant. When GBS were cultured at pH 5.0, the bacteria had a higher buoyant density, reflecting decreased expression of capsule substance compared with bacteria grown at pH 7.4. Concomitantly, there was a substantial increase in chemiluminescence response for all isolates cultured at the lower pH, except for the capsule deficient mutant.

CONCLUSIONS PMNL function and opsonic capacity are significantly impaired in neonates and correlate with maturation of the newborn child. The combined defect in cellular and humoral defences in preterm neonates may contribute to their increased susceptibility to GBS infection. Growth conditions for GBS, simulating different in vivo environments, greatly affect capsule expression and resistance to phagocytosis.

  • phagocytosis
  • opsonisation
  • group B streptococci
  • chemiluminescence
  • capsule substance

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.