The majority of group A streptococcal (GAS) isolates from patients with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) and necrotizing fasciitis (NF) express numerous virulence factors, including several superantigens (SAgs). Purified SAgs are potent inducers of inflammatory (Th1) cytokines that contribute to the pathogenesis of severe infections. However, GAS-infected individuals are likely to be exposed to a mixture of GAS SAgs as well as other virulence factors produced by the bacteria, and therefore, our goal was to characterize the mitogenic and cytokine induction profiles of this mixture. All GAS isolates tested had brisk mitogenic activity and induced potent cytokine responses, with higher frequencies of Th1 than Th2 cytokine-producing cells. The mitogenic activity produced in culture supernatants of three selected clinical GAS isolates was significantly different, but no marked difference was found in their overall cytokine induction profiles. However, significant differences (P < 0.0062) were noted in the induction of Th2 cytokines between GAS supernatants and recombinant streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A (rSpeA), suggesting that the presence of other SAgs and/or the production of additional virulence factors may alter the overall cytokine induction profile of SAgs. A significant individual variation in the level of proliferative and cytokine responses to the same GAS culture supernatants or to rSpeA was noted. Individuals with higher frequencies of cells producing Th2 cytokines mounted lower levels of Th1 cytokine responses, and vice versa. Furthermore, quantification of the intensity and cell area of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta)-producing cells by image analysis revealed that individuals with higher Th2 responses had significantly lower IL-1beta production (P < 0.0001) than the individual with a strong Th1 response. Differences in the ability to induce Th1 versus Th2 cytokines, as well as the individual variations in cytokine responses to streptococcal SAgs, may play a central role in determining the severity of invasive GAS infections.