Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (2023)

by Sagar Aryal

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (1)

Image Source: ASMand Bacteria in Photos.

Table of Contents

(Video) Staphylococcus aureus

Habitat of Staphylococcus aureus

  1. The natural habitat is mammalian body surfaces.
  2. They are normal flora of the skin and mucous membrane.
  3. Also present in the nose / the anterior nares.
  4. They can also be found in Pharynx.
  5. Found in stratified epithelial cells or mucous or serum constituents associated with these cells.
  6. Found in skin/nasal passage and axillae of humans.
  7. They act as a benign or symbiotic relationship with the hosts.
  8. Enterogeneric strains of S.aureus are found in various food products.
  9. They may survive on dry skin.
  10. Thirty percent (30%) of the normal human healthy population is affected by S. aureus as it asymptomatically colonizes on the skin of the human host.

Morphology of Staphylococcus aureus

  1. Gram-positive, singly, in pairs, or in a short chain of 3-4 bacteria.
  2. Irregular clusters of cells.
  3. 1 um in diameter
  4. Spherical colonies in clusters in two planes.
  5. Cell wall- very thick peptidoglycan layer
  6. Non-Flagellated, Non-Motile and Non-Sporing
  7. They are capsulated.
  8. Grapes like clusters arrangement.

Cultural characteristicsof Staphylococcus aureus

  1. Staphylococci grow readily on most bacteriologic media under aerobic or microaerophilic conditions.
  2. Colonies on solid media are round, smooth, raised, and glistening.
  3. S. aureus usually forms gray to deep golden yellow colonies.
  4. Mannitol Salt Agar: circular, 2–3 mm in diameter, with a smooth, shiny surface; colonies appear opaque and are often pigmented golden yellow.
  5. Tryptic Soy Agar: circular, convex, and entire margin.
  6. Blood Agar: beta-hemolysis.
  7. Brain heart infusion agar:Yellow pigmented colonies.

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (2)

(Video) Staphylococcus aureus | complete overview | microbiology

Figure: Staphylococcus aureus in Mannitol Salt Agar. Image Source: ASM.

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (3)

Figure: Staphylococcus aureus colonies on blood agar, beta-hemolysis. Image Source: Bacteria in Photos.

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (4)

Figure: Staphylococcus aureus on Tryptic Soy Agar. Image Source:

(Video) Staphylococcus: Aureus, Epidermidis, Saprophyticus

Biochemical characteristicsof Staphylococcus aureus

  • Catalase positive
  • Oxidase negative
  • OF test – fermentative
  • Coagulase positive: the presence of free and /or bound coagulase
  • Indole negative
  • Gas negative
  • Hydrogen sulfide negative
  • Methyl red positive
  • VP positive
  • Nitrate reduction positive
  • Gelatin hydrolysis positive
  • Beta hemolysis on Blood agar
  • Citrate positive
  • Motility negative
  • PYR negative
  • Urease positive

Virulence factors of Staphylococcus aureus

A. Cell wall components

  1. Polysaccharide Capsule: inhibits phagocytosis
  2. Peptidoglycan: activates complement, IL-1, chemotactic to PMNs
  3. Teichoic acid: species-specific, mediate binding to fibronectin
  4. Protein A: It binds to the Fc region of IgG and complement, exerting an anti-opsonin effect.
  5. Fibronectin binding protein (FnBP): promote binding to, mucosal cells and tissue matrices.
  6. Clumping factor: FnBP enhances the clumping of the organism in presence of plasma.

B. Enzymes

  1. Catalase enzyme: conversion of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen
  2. Coagulase enzyme and clumping factor: an enzyme-like protein that clots oxalated or citrated plasma.
  3. Other enzymes: hyaluronidase (spreading factor), staphylokinase(fibrinolysis), proteinases, lipases, β- lactamases

C. Toxins

  1. Exotoxins: comprises of four toxins α,β,γ,δ: also called hemolysin,
    – α exotoxins- heterogenous protein acts on a broad spectrum of eukaryotic cell membranes
    – β exotoxins- degrades sphingomyelin
    – δ exotoxins- disrupts biological membrane
    – γ exotoxins- interact with two proteins to form six potential two-component toxins. All six toxins lyse WBC by pore formation in the cellular membranes that increase cation permeability
  2. Panton-Valentine leukocidin: composed of two components S and F which act synergistically to kill white blood cells
  3. Exfoliative toxins: composed of type A- located on phage and heat stable and type B- plasmid-mediated and heat-labile: yield generalized desquamation scalded skin syndrome
  4. Toxic shock syndrome toxins (TSST-1): prototypical superantigen which binds with MHC-II yielding T-cell stimulation. Toxic is associated with fever, shock, and multisystem involvement.
  5. Enterotoxins: altogether 15 enterotoxins(A-E, G-P), heat stable, resistant to gut enzymes

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (5)

Figure: Virulence determinants of Staphylococcus aureus. Image Source: Kenneth Todar, Ph.D.

Clinical manifestation of Staphylococcus aureus

A. Localized skin infections

  • Infections are small superficial abscesses involving hair follicles, sweat, or sebaceous glands.
  • Subcutaneous abscesses called furuncles (boils) often formed around foreign bodies.
  • Carbuncles are larger, deeper, multiloculated skin infections that can lead to bacteremia.
  • Impetigo is usually localized, superficial, spreading crusty skin lesions.

B. Deep localized infections

  • Metastatic from superficial infections or skin carriage or may result from trauma.
  • Acute infection of joint space in children.

C. Acute endocarditis

  • Generally associated with intravenous drug users.
  • Bacteria can be introduced into soft tissue and the bloodstream.

D. Septicemia

  • Generalized infection with sepsis or bacteremia associated with a known focus or not.

E. Pneumonia

F. Nosocomial infections

  • Hospital-associated infections often of wounds or bacteremia associated with catheters.

G. Toxin mediated infections

Toxic shock syndrome

  • High Fever
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypotension
  • Multiorgan involvement

Staphylococcal gastroenteritis

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Scalded skin syndrome

  • The appearance of superficial bullae.
  • Marked epithelial desquamation.

Laboratory Diagnosis of Staphylococcus aureus


  • Microscopy is useful for pyogenic infections but not blood infections or toxin-mediated infections.
  • A direct smear for Gram staining may be performed as soon as the specimen is collected.
  • The Gram stain showing typical Gram-positive cocci that occur singly and in pairs, tetrads, short chains, and irregulargrape-like clusters can be suspected to be S. aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus- An Overview - Microbe Notes (6)

Image Source: Microbiology in pictures and Sanmukh Joshi.


Growth medium

  • The organism is isolated by streaking material from the clinical specimen (or from a blood culture) onto solid media such as blood agar, tryptic soy agar, or heart infusion agar.
  • Specimens likely to be contaminated with other microorganisms can be plated on mannitol salt agar containing 7.5% sodium chloride, which allows the halo-tolerant staphylococci to grow.
  • The inoculated plates should be incubated at 35°C to 37°C for 24 to 48 hours.
    • On Blood agar, growth occurs abundantly within 18 to 24 hours. Round, raised, opaque, yellow to golden yellow colonies of 1-2mm in diameter are seen with or withoutbeta hemolysis.
    • On Mannitol Salt Agar (MSA), a selective media, S. aureus being a mannitol fermenting bacteria, gives yellow or gold colonies.
  • An 18 h to 24 h culture can be used as the inoculum for additional tests.
  • Isolates should be subcultured at least once on a nonselective medium after initial isolation before being used in a diagnostic test that requires pure culture or heavy inoculum.

Presumptive identification

The presumptive identification ofS. aureus rests on the isolation of:

(Video) Staphylococcus aureus | Introduction and morphology | Part 1 | #Microbiology #bdslectures

  • Large mannitol fermenting colonies on MSA
  • Gram-positive cocci in clusters
  • Catalase-positive organisms
  • Coagulase-positive organisms

Confirmatory tests

Confirmatory tests include biochemical tests, molecular probes, or mass spectrometry.

Biochemical reactions

Tests for clumping factor, coagulase, hemolysins, and thermostable deoxyribonuclease are routinely used to identify S. aureus.

Identification of toxins

  • This is important for more severe cases like toxic shock syndrome and food poisoning.
  • Toxins produced by S. aureus, such as enterotoxins A to D and TSST-1 may be identified using agglutination tests.
  • The tests are determined by the clumping of the latex particles by the toxins present in the samples.
  • Commercial latex agglutination tests are available for this purpose.

Nucleic acid amplification tests

  • Commercial nucleic acid amplification tests are available for the direct detection and identification of S. aureus in clinical specimens.
  • Whereas the earlier versions of these tests required manual extraction of bacterial DNA and testing multiple specimens in large batches, integrated processing of specimens (extraction, gene amplification, and target detection) is now performed on highly automated platforms with disposable reagent strips or cartridges.
  • They are useful for screening patients for carriage of methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) and MRSA.

Treatment of Staphylococcus aureus infection

  • Localized infections are managed by incision and drainage while antibiotic therapy is indicated for systemic infections.
  • Oral therapy can include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, doxycycline or minocycline, clindamycin, or linezolid; vancomycin is the drug of choice for intravenous therapy, with daptomycin, tigecycline, or linezolid acceptable alternatives.
  • Hospital- and community-acquired infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are a significant worldwide problem. Hence, empirical therapy should include antibiotics active against MRSA strains.
  • Treatment is symptomatic for patients with food poisoning (although the source of infection should be identified so that appropriate preventive procedures can be enacted)

Prevention ofStaphylococcus aureus infection

  • Proper cleansing of wounds and the use of disinfectants help prevent infections.
  • Thorough hand washing and covering of exposed skin help medical personnel prevent infection or spread to other patients.
  • Patients and staff carrying epidemic strains, particularly MRSA, should be isolated.
  • Patients may be given disinfectant baths or treated with a topical antibiotic to eradicate carriage of MRSA.
  • Infection control programs should be used in hospitals.

Read Also:

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  • Bacteria- Definition, Structure, Shapes, Sizes, Classification
  • Amazing 27 Things Under The Microscope With Diagrams
  • Respiratory Microbiota- Normal Flora of Respiratory Tract
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis- An Overview
  • Animal Cell- Definition, Structure, Parts, Functions, Labeled Diagram

References and Sources

  1. Murray, P. R., Rosenthal, K. S., & Pfaller, M. A. (2013).Medical microbiology. Philadelphia: Elsevier/Saunders.
  2. BLAIR J. E. (1958). Laboratory diagnosis of staphylococcal infections.Bulletin of the World Health Organization,18(3), 291–307.


What is Staphylococcus aureus an overview? ›

Staphylococcus aureus is a gram-positive bacteria that cause a wide variety of clinical diseases. Infections caused by this pathogen are common both in community-acquired and hospital-acquired settings.

What is Staphylococcus short note? ›

Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria in the family Staphylococcaceae from 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).

What are the microbial characteristics of S. aureus? ›

Characteristics. Staphylococci are Gram-positive, nonspore forming, facultatively anaerobic, nonmotile, catalase-positive or negative, small, spherical bacteria from pairs to, grape-like clusters, from where the name Staphylococcus comes from (staphyle, meaning a bunch of grapes, and kokkos, meaning berry).

What is the most common infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus? ›

Boils. The most common type of staph infection is the boil. This is a pocket of pus that develops in a hair follicle or oil gland. The skin over the infected area usually becomes red and swollen.

What is Staphylococcus aureus caused by? ›

Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria. These germs can live on contaminated implanted medical devices and improperly cleaned needles, such as those used for tattoos and injecting drugs. If an area of your skin is broken, skin-to-skin contact or touching contaminated objects may also lead to infection.

How is Staphylococcus aureus transmitted? ›

Transmission: Staph is usually spread through direct contact with a person who has a skin infection or is carrying the bacteria on their skin or in their nose. This can occur in the community by close skin to skin contact, sharing items such as towels or clothes, or touching surfaces that someone else has touched.

How do you identify Staphylococcus aureus? ›

Coagulase testing is the single most reliable method for identifying Staphylococcus aureus [9]. Coagulase production can be detected using either the slide coagulase test (SCT) or the tube coagulase test (TCT).

Where is Staphylococcus aureus found? ›

S. aureus is commonly found in the environment (soil, water and air) and is also found in the nose and on the skin of humans. S. aureus is a Gram-positive, non-spore forming spherical bacterium that belongs to the Staphylococcus genus.

What type of virus is Staphylococcus? ›

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as “staph,” are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Staph bacteria frequently cause skin infections, such as boils. Most of these infections are not life-threatening.

How does S. aureus affect immune system? ›

Specifically, Staphylococcus aureus, a major human pathogen, secretes a variety of immune evasion molecules including proteases, which cleave components of the innate immune system or disrupt the integrity of extracellular matrix and intercellular connections of tissues.

What are three identifying characteristics of Staphylococcus aureus? ›

CHARACTERISTICS: Staphylococcus aureus are Gram-positive, catalase positive cocci belonging to the Staphylococcaceae family 1, 2. They are approximately 0.5-1.5 µm in diameter, nonmotile, non-spore-forming, facultative anaerobes (with the exception of S. aureus anaerobius) that usually form in clusters.

What is the life cycle of Staphylococcus aureus? ›

Using this system, S. aureus biofilm development has been shown to proceed through a five-stage developmental process including: 1) attachment, 2) multiplication, 3) exodus, 4) maturation, and 5) dispersal (Figure 1) (Moormeier et al., 2014). S. aureus biofilm development is described in five stages: A) attachment, B)

Who is most at risk for Staphylococcus aureus? ›

Anyone can develop a staph infection, although certain groups of people are at greater risk, including people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema, lung disease, and people who inject drugs.

Is Staphylococcus aureus contagious? ›

Touching skin-to-skin can spread staph from one person to another. Staph can be picked up from surfaces that are often touched, like phones or doorknobs. Sometimes shared personal items, like towels, soap, or sports equipment can spread staph. Pus from an abscess is especially contagious on skin or surfaces.

What food kills Staphylococcus aureus? ›

Ginger compounds have exhibited the ability to inhibit the growth and even kill oral pathogens.
Let me share with you easy to find spice/foods that can help you fight sexually transmitted infections like gonorhrea ,staph aureus, herpes and UTI .
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Jul 18, 2018

Is Staphylococcus aureus a serious infection? ›

Overview. Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a germ found on people's skin. Staph can cause serious infections if it gets into the blood and can lead to sepsis or death. Staph is either methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) or methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA).

What is Staphylococcus aureus and how is it treated? ›

Antibiotics commonly prescribed to treat staph infections include cefazolin, nafcillin, oxacillin, vancomycin, daptomycin and linezolid. For serious staph infections, vancomycin may be required. This is because so many strains of staph bacteria have become resistant to other traditional antibiotics.

Where is Staphylococcus aureus commonly found? ›

S. aureus is commonly found in the environment (soil, water and air) and is also found in the nose and on the skin of humans. S. aureus is a Gram-positive, non-spore forming spherical bacterium that belongs to the Staphylococcus genus.

Can Staphylococcus aureus be cured? ›

Doctors treat staph infections with antibiotics. If you got the infection in a hospital, they'll give you antibiotics that work against MRSA.


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