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Staphylococcus: Pathogenesis, Infection, Toxins

Raina Rahul Agarwal 5 Jun, 2022 Microbiology World No Comments


Bacteria Staphylococcus are supposed to cause many types of infection such as Skin infection sometimes pneumonia, endocarditis, and osteomyelitis, hospital-acquired infection of the surgical wound, S.aureuns can cause food poisoning, and S.aureus can cause toxic shock syndrome by the release of superantigens into the blood, S.Shaprophyticus can cause urinary tract infection, especially in the female. There are some other species of Staphylococci- S.lugdunesis, S.Warneri, S.Schleiferi, and S.intermedius are frequently infected pathogens.


Staphylococcus are Gram Positive bacteria, 1um in size and format clumps. They are facultative anaerobe, non-motile, catalase-positive or negative bacteria. It forms grapes like structure, thus it is named Staphylococcus ( Staphyle meaning-a bunch of grapes, kokkos, meaning berry).

The phylum of Staphylococcus is Bacillota, Class- Bacilli, Order- Bacillales and the family is Staphylococcaceae. Previously Staphylococcus was believed to belong to the family of Micrococcaceae, later it was revealed Staphylococci are classified into the family of Staphylococcaceae on the basis of molecular and phylogenetic analysis.


The natural habitat of Staphylococcus is humans and animals. Staphylococci is a part of skin flora, especially in mucous membranes. Apart from these habitats it also resides in the soil, water, food and contaminated objects.

Staphylococcus grows in food and is present in humans with a range of temperatures from 7º C to approx 46° C and the optimum temperature is 35° C. It prefers a pH range of 7-7.5, however, it can grow at low pH of 4.5. Staphylococcus has the tendency to grow at a low level of water activity. Thus it has the capacity to tolerate salts and sugar. Due to the nature of Staphylococcus, it has been responsible for food borne diseases.


Staphylococcus aureus: Food Poisoning Bacteria

food poisoning disease

Staphylococcus is the major cause of food poisoning by releasing enterotoxins in the food thus this process is called intoxication.

Staphylococcus food poisoning disease has been the world’s most common disease food-borne disease. It is caused by the ingestion of Staphylococcal enterotoxin.

Staphylococcus aureus produces a wide variety of staphylococcal enterotoxins (SE). There are more than 20 SEs have been described to date. These enterotoxins have superantigenic activity

Mode of Transmission of bacteria

food poisoning bacteria

There are many ways to transfer bacterial into humans:

  • The main source of transmission is respiratory tract and manual contact, food handlers carry this strain in their nose and hands and contaminate the food
  • Enterotoxins contained food as raw material, healthy or infected carrier
  •  Unclean food preparation area
  • Favourable temperature and time for the growth of the bacteria and their toxins
  • Ingestion of food containing toxins to prove the disease.
  • If the food is not properly cooked then bacteria can produce the toxin.

Skin Infection

The pathogen Staphylococcus is the common colonizer of the skin barrier. It may cause a variety of pyogenic (production of pus) systemic infections (an infection that occurs in the bloodstream-affects the entire body), acute or chronic infection, toxic- mediated syndrome. S.aureus is common in people with frequent injury and whether the skin is dry. S.aureus is able to invade through broken skin or mucous membrane.

  • There are various ways to avoid host defence if they are invaded the skin:
  • Hide their antigen to avoid an immune response
  • Survive within-host infection-fighting cells.
  • Deep resistance to antibiotic
  • Kill infection-fighting cells
  • Release toxic(intoxication)
Staphylococcus infection

Wendy Townrow/Shutterstock

Some examples of skin infection by S.aureus:

  • Hair follicles infection- folliculitis, boils, abscess and sycosis
  • Impetigo- Forms pustules and yellow crusty sores
  • Ecthyma- Similar to impetigo, occurs deep inside the skin.
  • Cellulitis- Inflammation of subcutaneous tissue.
  • Secondary skin infection of wound, dermatitis, scabies, diabetes ulcer etc.
  • Inflammation and abscess of the breast
  • Hypersensitivity reaction-folliculitis decalvans
Staphylococcus infection

Skin disease can occur due to toxin release as well by the bacteria:

  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS)- Affects children less than 5 years old, adults, with kidney failure
  • Staphylococcal scarlatina
  • Toxic shock syndrome- This uncommon disease can occur by the release of Toxic shock syndrome Toxin-1(TSST-1) and enterotoxin B. These toxins are superantigen and capable of generating an inflammatory response.
  • Staphylococcal scarlatina (Scarlet fever)

Frequently Asked Questions

Que: Where do Staphylococcus bacteria live?
Ans: Staphylococcus bacteria live on many skin surfaces, around the nose, mouth, anus and genitals etc.

Que: Can Staphylococcus survive in water?
Ans: Staphylococcus aureus can survive in drinking water which is distributed by the public devices, it can also survive in domestic water if people do not store it properly.

Que: What does Staphylococcus need to survive?
Ans: The growth and survival of the Staphylococcus aureus depend on the many factors: Temperature, Water activity, pH, presence of oxygen and composition of the food.

  • Que: What are precautions for Staphylococcus infection?
    Ans: Wash your hand
  • Reduce tampon risk
  • Keep wound covered
  • Keeps personal items personal.
  • Wash clothing and bedding
  • Take food safety precautions

Que: What is the duration of the Staphylococcus infection?
Ans: Symptoms develop between 30 minutes to 8 hours after having food contained with the toxin. The severe illness is rare.

Que: What temperature kills Staphylococcus aureus toxins?
Ans: Staphylococcus aureus toxin can kill when the temperature will raise from 70-80 C for 50 and 20 minutes respectively.


Staphylococcus is a major pathogenic bacteria and it can cause different types of infection in the skin their enterotoxins can occur food poisoning in humans. Staphylococcus infection is significantly in morbidity and mortality in neonates. Humans should take all precautions to avoid infection by Staphylococcus.

Disclaimer: All the content of this article is for information purposes only.



author avatar
Raina Rahul Agarwal
My name is Raina Agarwal, and I am a seasoned content writer with three years of experience in the field. Holding a master's degree in microbiology. I have also garnered valuable experience as a microbiologist, with a career spanning over a decade since 2011. My diverse professional background enables me to offer unique insights and perspectives in my content creation endeavours.

Raina Rahul Agarwal

A Non-Medical Scientist, BSL-2 Lab, Mirzapur

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