Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive round-shaped bacterium, a member of the Firmicutes, and is a usual member of the microbiota of the body, frequently found in the upper respiratory tract and on the skin. It is often positive for catalase and nitrate reduction and is a facultative anaerobe that can grow without the need for oxygen. Although S. aureus usually acts as a commensal of the human microbiota it can also become an opportunistic pathogen, being a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning. Pathogenic strains often promote infections by producing virulence factors such as potent protein toxins, and the expression of a cell-surface protein that binds and inactivates antibodies. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is a worldwide problem in clinical medicine. Despite much research and development, no vaccine for S. aureus has been approved.
|Scanning electron micrograph of S. aureus; false color added|
|Other names||Staph aureus, S. aureus|
|Types||Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus Aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus|
|Causes||Staphylococcus aureus bacteria|
|Differential diagnosis||other bacterial, viral and fungal infections,|
|Prevention||hand washing, cleaning surfaces|
|Frequency||20% to 30% of the human population often without symptoms|
An estimated 20% to 30% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureus which can be found as part of the normal skin flora, in the nostrils, and as a normal inhabitant of the lower reproductive tract of women. S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses, from minor skin infections, such as pimples, impetigo, boils, cellulitis, folliculitis, carbuncles, scalded skin syndrome, and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome, bacteremia, and sepsis. It is still one of the five most common causes of hospital-acquired infections and is often the cause of wound infections following surgery. Each year, around 500,000 patients in hospitals of the United States contract a staphylococcal infection, chiefly by S. aureus. Up to 50,000 deaths each year in the USA are linked with S. aureus infections.