|Toxicity in nose, blood and skin bacteria.|
The notion that isolates responsible for serious human infection are less toxic challenges some long-held beliefs about the mechanism of disease in Staphylococcus aureus infections. Most models of disease assume a straightforward relationship between increased toxicity and greater virulence - the propensity to cause, or severity of, disease.
To test her observation, Ruth collaborated with groups from New York and Cambridge to investigate whether the pattern observed in one patient held more generally across 134 Staphylococcus aureus belonging to the notorious USA300 strain. It did.
Curiously, bacteria isolated from the skin and from superficial infections were equally toxic to nose bacteria. These findings raise new questions about the role of toxicity in colonization, transmission and serious infections of Staphylococcus aureus. One possibility that we wish to investigate further is whether toxicity might be required for the usual transmission of Staphylococcus aureus populations in the nose, skin or superficial infections (such as impetigo), whereas loss of toxicity may promote transition to deep tissue and bloodstream infections by evading immune defences.