Streptococcus pneumoniae, the pneumococcus, is a Gram-positive diplococcus (figure 23.9). The most striking characteristic of S. pneumoniae is its thick polysaccharide capsule, which is responsible for the organism's virulence. There are more than 80 different types of S. pneumoniae, as determined by differing capsular antigens. A hemolysin called pneumolysin, antigenically related to streptolysin O of S. pyogenes, may have a minor role in virulence. A surface protein, PspA, is being evaluated as a vaccine candidate. ■ capsules, p. 63
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