A Link Between Virulence and Ecological Abundance in Natural Populations of Staphylococcus aureus

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Science  06 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5514, pp. 114-116
DOI: 10.1126/science.1056495

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Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of severe infection in humans and yet is carried without symptoms by a large proportion of the population. We used multilocus sequence typing to characterize isolates of S. aureus recovered from asymptomatic nasal carriage and from episodes of severe disease within a defined population. We identified a number of frequently carried genotypes that were disproportionately common as causes of disease, even taking into account their relative abundance among carriage isolates. The existence of these ecologically abundant hypervirulent clones suggests that factors promoting the ecological fitness of this important pathogen also increase its virulence.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:{at}

  • Present address: Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK.

  • Present address: Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College School of Medicine, St. Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London, W2 1PG, UK.

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