The human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes causes substantial morbidity and mortality. It is unclear if antibodies developed after infections with this pathogen are opsonic and if they are strain specific or more broadly protective. Here, we quantified the opsonic-antibody response following invasive S. pyogenes infection.
Four patients with S. pyogenes bacteremia between 2018 and 2020 at Skåne University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, were prospectively enrolled. Acute- and convalescent-phase sera were obtained, and the S. pyogenes isolates were genome sequenced (emm118, emm85, and two emm1 isolates). Quantitative antibody binding and phagocytosis assays were used to evaluate isolate-dependent opsonic antibody function in response to infection. Antibody binding increased modestly against the infecting isolate and across emm types in convalescent- compared to acute-phase sera for all patients. For two patients, phagocytosis increased in convalescent-phase serum both for the infecting isolate and across types. The increase was only across types for one patient, and one had no improvement. No correlation to the clinical outcomes was observed. Invasive S. pyogenes infections result in a modestly increased antibody binding with differential opsonic capacity, both nonfunctional binding and broadly opsonic binding across types.
These findings question the dogma that an invasive infection should lead to a strong type-specific antibody increase rather than a more modest but broadly reactive response, as seen in these patients. Furthermore, our results indicate that an increase in antibody titers might not be indicative of an opsonic response and highlight the importance of evaluating antibody function in S. pyogenes infections.