• β-haemolytic streptococci;
  • emm gene;
  • invasive;
  • necrotizing fasciitis;
  • necrotizing soft tissue infections;
  • Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis;
  • Streptococcus pyogenes ;
  • superantigens


Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus, GAS) is a major cause of necrotizing soft tissue infection (NSTI). On rare occasions, other β-haemolytic streptococci may also cause NSTI, but the significance and nature of these infections has not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, clinical and molecular characteristics of NSTI caused by GAS and β-haemolytic Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis of groups C and G (GCS/GGS) in western Norway during 2000–09 are presented. Clinical data were included retrospectively. The bacterial isolates were subsequently emm typed and screened for the presence of genes encoding streptococcal superantigens. Seventy cases were identified, corresponding to a mean annual incidence rate of 1.4 per 100 000. Sixty-one of the cases were associated with GAS, whereas GCS/GGS accounted for the remaining nine cases. The in-hospital case fatality rates of GAS and GCS/GGS disease were 11% and 33%, respectively. The GCS/GGS patients were older, had comorbidities more often and had anatomically more superficial disease than the GAS patients. High age and toxic shock syndrome were associated with mortality. The Laboratory Risk Indicator for Necrotizing Fasciitis laboratory score showed high values (≥6) in only 31 of 67 cases. Among the available 42 GAS isolates, the most predominant emm types were emm1, emm3 and emm4. The virulence gene profiles were strongly correlated to emm type. The number of superantigen genes was low in the four available GCS/GGS isolates. Our findings indicate a high frequency of streptococcal necrotizing fasciitis in our community. GCS/GGS infections contribute to the disease burden, but differ from GAS cases in frequency and predisposing factors.