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The gram-negative bacteria Sneathia amnii is a poorly-characterized commensal of the female urogenital tract frequently associated with adverse clinical outcomes such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), amnionitis, and preterm labor. To investigate its potential role in virulence, we sought to identify and characterize virulence determinants produced by S. amnii in an effort to better understand the pathogenesis of infectious preterm birth. Through sequencing of the Sn35 genome (type strain of S. amnii), we identified two genes with amino acid sequence similarity and structural similarity to the filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA) protein of Bordetella pertussis and its Type Vb transporter. Because S. amnii requires human blood components for growth and lyses human red blood cells, we hypothesized that this two-partner system was involved in hemolysis. To characterize the function of the FHA-like protein, a purified, recombinant peptide was used to induce an antibody response. The polyclonal rabbit serum against the antigenic peptide was incubated with S. amnii to block the FHA-like protein prior to the addition of red blood cells. Pre-treatment with the antiserum inhibited hemolytic activity against human erythrocytes suggesting that the FHA-like protein is somehow involved in hemolysis. Additionally, we found that the hemolytic activity of S. amnii was highly specific against human red blood cells; it did not lyse horse or rabbit red blood cells and only minimally lysed sheep red blood cells. Further research efforts will focus on purifying functional FHA-like protein for further characterization and to determine whether it is sufficient to induce hemolysis.

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Subject Major(s)



Immunology, bacterial vaginosis, preterm birth, hemolysis, hemolysin


Bacteriology | Biochemistry | Immunology of Infectious Disease | Immunopathology | Molecular Biology | Pathogenic Microbiology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Kimberly Jefferson


© The Author(s)

Characterization of a Putative Hemolysin Expressed by Sneathia amnii, a Preterm Birth-associated Pathogen