Laboratories that reported isolations of Streptococcus sanguis from blood cultures to the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC) Colindale were requested to submit strains to Bath Public Health Laboratory to allow the prevalence of penicillin tolerance within different biotypes of this species to be studied. One hundred and fifty one Streptococcus spp were received from 78 United Kingdom laboratories in one year. Strains were identified using the API 20 Strep, and minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of penicillin were determined using the spiral gradient plate method. Penicillin tolerance was detected by spraying beta-lactamase over inoculated gradient plates, reincubating for 48 hours and counting the number of surviving organisms represented by colonies. There were 57 different API identification profiles encountered in the survey. Most S sanguis I/1 strains were penicillin tolerant, most S sanguis II strains were non-tolerant. The overall geometric mean MIC of penicillin was considerably lower for S sanguis I/1 than for all other biotypes. The distribution of biotypes and the geometric mean MIC of penicillin for each biotype were not significantly different for infective endocarditis strains than for all strains tested, suggesting little or no association between penicillin tolerance and the seeding of endocardium. When the reactions obtained using API 20 Strep were compared with a recent taxonomic study of viridans streptococci, 22 of 38 S sanguis I/1 strains could be reclassified as S gordonii; all these strains were penicillin tolerant. Such reclassification would allow likely penicillin tolerant strains to be predicted.
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