SEM micrograph of S. aureus colonies; note the grape-like clustering common to Staphylococcus species.
| Scientific classification
Staphylococcus (in Greek staphyle means bunch of grapes and coccos means granule) is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope they appear round (cocci), and form in grape-like clusters.
The Staphylococcus genus includes thirty-one species. Most are harmless and reside normally on the skin and mucous membranes of humans and other organisms. Found worldwide, they are a small component of soil microbial flora.
Role in disease
Staphylococci can cause a wide variety of diseases in humans and other animals through either toxin production or invasion. Staphylococcal toxins are a common cause of food poisoning, as it can grow in improperly-stored food. Although the cooking process kills them, the enterotoxins are heat-resistant and can survive boiling for several minutes. Staphylococci can grow in foods with relatively low-water activity (such as cheese and salami).
- One pathogenic species is Staphylococcus aureus, which can infect wounds. These bacteria can survive on dry surfaces, increasing the chance of transmission. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has recently become a major cause of hospital-acquired infections, and is being recognized with increasing frequency in community-acquired infections. S. aureus is also implicated in toxic shock syndrome; during the 1980s some tampons allowed the rapid growth of S. aureus, which released toxins that were absorbed into the bloodstream. Any S. aureus infection can cause the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, a cutaneous reaction to exotoxin absorbed into the bloodstream. It can also cause a type of septicaemia called pyaemia. Getting this infection can be very serious, frequently resulting in death. There were more than 22,000 deaths due to this infection in the year 2006 .
- The coagulase-positive Staphylococcus that inhabits and sometimes infects the skin of domestic dogs and cats is Staphylococcus intermedius. This organism, too, can carry the genetic material that imparts multiple bacterial resistance. It is rarely implicated in infections in humans, as a zoonosis.
- S. saprophyticus, another coagulase-negative species that is part of the normal vaginal flora, is predominantly implicated in genitourinary tract infections in sexually-active young women.
- In recent years, several other Staphylococcus species have been implicated in human infections, notably S. lugdunensis, S. schleiferi, and S. caprae.
Staphylococci can also be found on the tips of the fingers, in particular, on the index finger as well as the thumb. This infection is known as a felon. As are many other Staphylococcus infections, felon is very painful and can be treated with antibiotics. Most S. aureus are penicillin-resistant, but vancomycin and nafcillin are known to be effective against most strains.
Staphylococcus aureus shows beta-hemolysis on Sheep Blood Agar, however S. epidermidis is non-hemolytic on SBA. Both are positive for catalase production.
- ^ Ryan KJ, Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology, 4th ed., McGraw Hill. ISBN 0838585299.
- ^ Holt JG (editor) (1994). Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, 9th ed., Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 0-683-00603-7.
- ^ Madigan M, Martinko J (editors). (2005). Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 11th ed., Prentice Hall. ISBN 0131443291.