Prophages and satellite prophages are widespread in Streptococcus and may play a role in pneumococcal pathogenesis.
Rezaei Javan R., Ramos-Sevillano E., Akter A., Brown J., Brueggemann AB.
Prophages (viral genomes integrated within a host bacterial genome) can confer various phenotypic traits to their hosts, such as enhanced pathogenicity. Here we analyse >1300 genomes of 70 different Streptococcus species and identify nearly 800 prophages and satellite prophages (prophages that do not encode their own structural components but rely on the bacterial host and another helper prophage for survival). We show that prophages and satellite prophages are widely distributed among streptococci in a structured manner, and constitute two distinct entities with little effective genetic exchange between them. Cross-species transmission of prophages is not uncommon. Furthermore, a satellite prophage is associated with virulence in a mouse model of Streptococcus pneumoniae infection. Our findings highlight the potential importance of prophages in streptococcal biology and pathogenesis.