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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Multi-drug Resistant Organisms: MRSA, VRE, and Clostridium difficile. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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S. aureus Virulence Factors

S. aureus is the most pathogenic member of the genus Staphylococcus; it possesses several factors that contribute to its virulence:
  • Structural components of its cell wall function as a protective barrier, aid in adherence to mucous membranes, and allow the organism to resist phagocytosis.
  • The production of several different toxins
    • Enterotoxins A, D, F (TSST1)
    • Exfoliative toxin ( causing scalded skin syndrome
    • Cytolytic toxins (causing cell & tissue damage).
  • Production of enzymes
    • Catalase – distinguishes staphylococci from streptococci
    • Coagulase – distinguishes S. aureus from other staphylococci
    • Hyaluronidase & lipase – aid in skin colonization/infection spread
    • Beta-lactamase – breaks down the beta-lactam antibiotics, e.g., penicillins, cephalosporins, carbapenems and monobactams.