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Lancefield grouping and smell of caramel for presumptive identification and assessment of pathogenicity in the Streptococcus milleri group.
  1. O Brogan,
  2. J Malone,
  3. C Fox,
  4. A S Whyte
  1. Department of Microbiology, Fife Area Laboratory, Kirkcaldy.


    AIM: To evaluate Lancefield grouping and caramel smell for presumptive identification of the Streptococcus milleri group, and to find whether Lancefield group, species, or protein profile correlated with virulence or infection site. METHODS: Prospective studies were made of 100 consecutive streptococcal isolates in blood cultures or pus from 100 patients in whom the severity of infection was categorised as serious, moderate, or not significant. The usefulness of Lancefield group and the caramel smell for presumptive identification was examined, and the relation of the S milleri species, Lancefield group, and SDS-PAGE protein analysis to severity of infection and infection site was investigated. Lower respiratory tract and genital tract specimens, strict anaerobes, group D streptococci, and strains identified as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, or Streptococcus agalactiae were excluded. RESULTS: Most streptococci occurring in pure or significant growth density were S milleri group (87/100; 87%, 95% confidence interval 0.81-0.93). Of these, 89.7% (78/87; 0.84-0.96) were associated with infection. Lancefield group F antigen predominated (41/87; 47.1%, 0.38-0.56). Lancefield group F alone or accompanied by the caramel smell had a specificity of 100%, but a sensitivity of only 47.3% for group F alone, and 19.5% for group F accompanied by the caramel smell. There was no significant association between species, Lancefield group, and severity of infection, site of infection, or pathogenicity. SDS-PAGE analysis failed to discriminate between strains. CONCLUSIONS: Neither species nor Lancefield antigen was related to the site of infection. The presence of Lancefield group F antigen alone or accompanied by a caramel smell was a useful indicator for the S milleri group when present, but was too insensitive to use as a screening test. Most streptococci occurring in pure culture or in significant growth density were of clinical importance. Such organisms should be identified to species level to detect the S milleri group.

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