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Infections due to the Streptococcus anginosus (Streptococcus milleri) group

Charles W Stratton, MD
Section Editor
Daniel J Sexton, MD
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


The Streptococcus anginosus group (also known as the Streptococcus milleri group) is a subgroup of viridans streptococci that consists of three distinct streptococcal species: S. anginosus, S. intermedius, and S. constellatus. S. constellatus has three subspecies: S. constellatus subsp constellatus, S. constellatus subsp pharyngis, and S. constellatus subsp viborgensis. S. anginosus has two subspecies: S. anginosus subsp anginosus and S. anginosus subsp whileyi [1-7]. These non-hemolytic viridans streptococci were first described by Guthof in 1956 after being isolated from dental abscesses. He named these organisms "Streptococcus milleri" in honor of the microbiologist W D Miller [1,8].

The organisms were subsequently recognized as normal flora of the human oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract with the ability to cause abscesses and systemic infections [9-13]. The unique characteristic of the S. anginosus group that sets these streptococci apart from other pathogenic streptococci, such as S. pyogenes (group A Streptococcus) and S. agalactiae (group B Streptococcus), is their ability to cause abscesses [14]. Unlike less virulent members of the viridans streptococci, members of the S. anginosus group should be considered true pathogens when isolated from humans, including children [15-17].

The microbiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and treatment of infections caused by members of the S. anginosus group in both adults and children will be reviewed here.


Members of the S. anginosus group are gram-positive, catalase-negative cocci (like other members of the genus Streptococcus). They are non-motile facultative anaerobes that demonstrate variable hemolysis patterns (alpha, beta, or gamma) on sheep blood agar [18]. Colonies are typically small (colony size less than 0.5 mm) [19]. Many strains demonstrate enhanced growth in the presence of CO2, whereas some strains may require anaerobic conditions.

Members of the genus Streptococcus may be classified by hemolysis patterns, Lancefield antigens, growth properties, and biochemical reactions. However, hemolysis patterns and Lancefield antigens are highly variable for members of the S. anginosus group. Almost 40 percent of S. constellatus and 12 percent of S. anginosus are beta-hemolytic, whereas 93 percent of S. intermedius strains are not beta-hemolytic [4]. Beta-hemolytic strains of S. constellatus typically react with Lancefield serologic group F antibody. Members of S. anginosus group often exhibit Lancefield antigens A, C, F, or G; strains containing the group F antigen may cross-react with other grouping sera. Group C and G Streptococcus that belong to the S. anginosus group consist of small colony isolates; large-colony group C and G Streptococcus are discussed further separately. (See "Group C and group G streptococcal infection".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 06, 2017.
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