Streptococcus is a genus of coccus (spherical) Gram-positive bacteria belonging to the phylum Firmicutes and the Lactobacillales (lactic acid bacteria) order. Cellular division occurs along a single axis in these bacteria, and thus they grow in chains or pairs, hence the name—from Greek στρεπτός streptos, meaning easily bent or twisted, like a chain (twisted chain). Contrast this with staphylococci, which divide along multiple axes and generate grape-like clusters of cells. Most streptococci are oxidase- and catalase-negative, and many are facultative anaerobes. In 1984, many organisms formerly considered Streptococcus were separated out into the genera Enterococcus and Lactococcus. Currently, over 50 species are recognised in this genus. In addition, many streptococcal species are not pathogenic, and form part of the human microbiota of the mouth, skin, intestine, and upper respiratory tract. Streptococcus mutans is the causative agent of dental caries.
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