Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria in the family Staphylococcaceae in the order Bacillales. Under the microscope, they appear spherical (cocci), and form in grape-like clusters. Staphylococcus species are facultative anaerobic organisms (capable of growth both aerobically and anaerobically).
|SEM micrograph of S. aureus colonies: Note the grape-like clustering common to Staphylococcus species.|
The name was coined in 1880 by Scottish surgeon and bacteriologist Alexander Ogston (1844-1929), following the pattern established five years earlier with the naming of Streptococcus. It combines the prefix "staphylo-" (from Ancient Greek: σταφυλή, romanized: staphylē, lit. 'bunch of grapes'), and suffixed by the Modern Latin: coccus, lit. 'spherical bacterium' (from Ancient Greek: κόκκος, romanized: kókkos, lit. 'grain, seed, berry').
Staphylococcus includes at least 40 species. Of these, nine have two subspecies, one has three subspecies, and one has four subspecies. Most are harmless and reside normally on the skin and mucous membranes of humans and other organisms. Staphylococcus has been found to be a nectar-inhabiting microbe. Found worldwide, they are a small component of soil microbial flora.
The taxonomy is based on 16s rRNA sequences, and most of the staphylococcal species fall into 11 clusters:
- S. aureus group – S. argenteus, S. aureus, S. schweitzeri, S. simiae
- S. auricularis group – S. auricularis
- S. carnosus group – S. carnosus, S. condimenti, S. debuckii, S. massiliensis, S. piscifermentans, S. simulans
- S. epidermidis group – S. capitis, S. caprae, S. epidermidis, S. saccharolyticus
- S. haemolyticus group – S. devriesei, S. haemolyticus, S. hominis
- S. hyicus-intermedius group – S. agnetis, S. chromogenes, S. cornubiensis, S. felis, S. delphini, S. hyicus, S. intermedius, S. lutrae, S. microti, S. muscae, S. pseudintermedius, S. rostri, S. schleiferi
- S. lugdunensis group – S. lugdunensis
- S. saprophyticus group – S. arlettae, S. caeli, S. cohnii, S. equorum, S. gallinarum, S. kloosii, S. leei, S. nepalensis, S. saprophyticus, S. succinus, S. xylosus
- S. sciuri group – S. fleurettii, S. lentus, S. sciuri, S. stepanovicii, S. vitulinus
- S. simulans group – S. simulans
- S. warneri group – S. pasteuri, S. warneri
A 12th group – that of S. caseolyticus – has now been removed to a new genus, Macrococcus, the species of which are currently the closest known relatives of Staphylococcus.
Two species were described in 2015 - Staphylococcus argenteus and Staphylococcus schweitzeri - both of which were previously considered variants of S. aureus.
A new coagulase negative species - Staphylococcus edaphicus - has been isolated from Antarctica. This species is probably a member of the S. saprophyticus group.
S. aureus subsp. aureus
S. aureus subsp. anaerobius
S. capitis subsp. capitis
S. capitis subsp. urealyticus
S. carnosus subsp. carnosus
S. carnosus subsp. utilis
S. cohnii subsp. cohnii
S. cohnii subsp. urealyticus
S. equorum subsp. equorum
S. equorum subsp. linens
S. hominis subsp. hominis
S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus
S petrasii subsp. croceilyticus
S petrasii subsp. jettensis
S petrasii subsp. petrasii
S petrasii subsp. pragensis
S. saprophyticus subsp. bovis
S. saprophyticus subsp. saprophyticus
S. schleiferi subsp. coagulans
S. schleiferi subsp. schleiferi
S. sciuri subsp. carnaticus
S. sciuri subsp. rodentium
S. sciuri subsp. sciuri
S. succinus subsp. casei
S. succinus subsp. succinus
Group A includes S. aureus, S. capitis, S. epidermidis, S. haemolyticus, S. hominis, S. lugdunensis, S. pettenkoferi, S. simiae and S. warneri.
Group B includes S. arlettae, S. cohnii, S. equorum, S. saprophyticus and S. xylosus.
Group C includes S. delphini, S. intermedius and S. pseudintermedius.
The S. saprophyticus and S. sciuri groups are generally novobiocin-resistant, as is S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus.
The S. sciuri group appears to be the closest relations to the genus Macrococcus.
S. lugdunensis appears to be related to the S. haemolyticus group.
S. petrasii may be related to S. haemolyticus, but this needs to be confirmed.
The taxonomic position of S. lyticans, S. pettenkoferi, S. petrasii, and S. pseudolugdunensis has yet to be clarified. The published descriptions of these species do not appear to have been validly published.
Assignment of a strain to the genus Staphylococcus requires it to be a Gram-positive coccus that forms clusters, has an appropriate cell wall structure (including peptidoglycan type and teichoic acid presence) and G + C content of DNA in a range of 30–40 mol%.
Staphylococcus species can be differentiated from other aerobic and facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive cocci by several simple tests. Staphylococcus species are facultative anaerobes (capable of growth both aerobically and anaerobically). All species grow in the presence of bile salts.
Growth can also occur in a 6.5% NaCl solution. On Baird Parker medium, Staphylococcus species grow fermentatively, except for S. saprophyticus, which grows oxidatively. Staphylococcus species are resistant to bacitracin (0.04 U disc: resistance = < 10 mm zone of inhibition) and susceptible to furazolidone (100 μg disc: resistance = < 15 mm zone of inhibition). Further biochemical testing is needed to identify to the species level.
When these bacteria divide, they do so along two axes, so form clumps of bacteria. This is as opposed to streptococci, which divide along one axis, so form chains (strep meaning twisted or pliant).
Seven species are currently recognised as being coagulase-positive: S. aureus, S. delphini, S. hyicus, S. intermedius, S. lutrae, S. pseudintermedius, and S. schleiferi subsp. coagulans. These species belong to two separate groups – the S. aureus (S. aureus alone) group and the S. hyicus-intermedius group (the remaining five).
An eighth species has also been described – Staphylococcus leei – from patients with gastritis.
S. aureus is coagulase-positive, meaning it produces coagulase. However, while the majority of S. aureus strains are coagulase-positive, some may be atypical in that they do not produce coagulase. S. aureus is catalase-positive (meaning that it can produce the enzyme catalase) and able to convert hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to water and oxygen, which makes the catalase test useful to distinguish staphylococci from enterococci and streptococci.
S. pseudintermedius inhabits and sometimes infects the skin of domestic dogs and cats. 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. epidermidis, a coagulase-negative species, is a commensal of the skin, but can cause severe infections in immunosuppressed patients and those with central venous catheters. 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.
Common abbreviations for coagulase-negative staphylococci are CoNS, CNS, or CNST. The American Society for Microbiology abbreviates coagulase-negative staphylococci as "CoNS".
Genomics and molecular biology
The first S. aureus genomes to be sequenced were those of N315 and Mu50, in 2001. Many more complete S. aureus genomes have been submitted to the public databases, making it one of the most extensively sequenced bacteria. The use of genomic data is now widespread and provides a valuable resource for researchers working with S. aureus. Whole genome technologies, such as sequencing projects and microarrays, have shown an enormous variety of S. aureus strains. Each contains different combinations of surface proteins and different toxins. Relating this information to pathogenic behaviour is one of the major areas of staphylococcal research. The development of molecular typing methods has enabled the tracking of different strains of S. aureus. This may lead to better control of outbreak strains. A greater understanding of how the staphylococci evolve, especially due to the acquisition of mobile genetic elements encoding resistance and virulence genes is helping to identify new outbreak strains and may even prevent their emergence.
The widespread incidence of antibiotic resistance across various strains of S. aureus, or across different species of Staphylococcus has been attributed to horizontal gene transfer of genes encoding antibiotic/metal resistance and virulence. A recent study demonstrated the extent of horizontal gene transfer among Staphylococcus to be much greater than previously expected, and encompasses genes with functions beyond antibiotic resistance and virulence, and beyond genes residing within the mobile genetic elements.
Various strains of Staphylococcus are available from biological research centres, such as the National Collection of Type Cultures.
Members of the genus Staphylococcus frequently colonize the skin and upper respiratory tracts of mammals and birds. Some species specificity has been observed in host range, such that the Staphylococcus species observed on some animals appear more rarely on more distantly related host species. Some of the observed host specificity includes:
S. arlattae – chickens, goats
S. aureus - humans
S. auricularis – deer, dogs, humans
S. capitis – humans
S. caprae – goats, humans
S. cohnii – chickens, humans
S. delphini – dolphins
S. devriesei – cattle
S. epidermidis – humans
S. equorum – horses
S. felis – cats
S. fleurettii – goats
S. gallinarum – chickens, goats, pheasants
S. haemolyticus – humans, Cercocebus, Erythrocebus, Lemur, Macca, Microcebus, Pan
S. hyicus – pigs
S. leei – humans
S. lentus – goats, rabbits, sheep
S. lugdunensis – humans, goats
S. lutrae – otters
S. microti – voles (Microtus arvalis)
S. nepalensis – goats
S. pasteuri – humans, goats
S. pettenkoferi – humans
S. pseudintermedius – dogs
S. rostri – pigs
S. schleiferi – humans
S. sciuri – humans, dogs, goats
S. simiae – South American squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)
S. simulans – humans
S. warneri – humans, Cercopithecoidea, Pongidae
S. xylosus – humans
Staphylococcus can cause a wide variety of diseases in humans and animals through either toxin production or penetration. Staphylococcal toxins are a common cause of food poisoning, for they can be produced by bacteria growing in improperly stored food items. The most common sialadenitis is caused by staphylococci, as bacterial infections.
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- Staphylococcus genomes and related information at PATRIC, a Bioinformatics Resource Center funded by NIAID