The mechanisms of host resistance to group B streptococci have not been defined precisely. In the studies reported here we have assessed the contributions of both humoral and cellular factors in protection against strains of this group. With assays of specific opsonic activity based upon the production of polymorphonuclear leukocyte chemiluminescence and radiolabeled bacterial uptake, we have demonstrated that specific heat-stable antibody and the classic complement pathway are major factors in opsonization of these organisms. In the absence of specific antibody, fresh serum resulted in markedly reduced bacterial uptake indicating, at best, a minor role for the alternative complement pathway. Additional studies have indicated that strain-specific antiphagocytic factors as well as type-specific ones may play a role in the virulence of these organisms. Neonates who developed group B streptococcal sepsis usually lacked opsonic activity in their infecting strain. In addition, polymorphonuclear leukocytes from normal term and stressed neonates showed impaired metabolic activation as measured in the chemiluminescence assay following exposure to opsonized group B streptococci. These results suggest that neonates who develop group B streptococcal disease may have defects in both the humoral and cellular aspects of their acute inflammatory response which may contribute to the high mortality observed in this most fulminant of bacterial infections.
- Copyright © 1979 by the American Academy of Pediatrics