Pathogenic Conversion of Coagulase-negative Staphylococci

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Coagulation, Clumping, Agglutination, Staphylococcus, Abscess, Virulence

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Humans and animals are colonized by members of the genus Staphylococcus, however only some of these species evolved to cause invasive disease. The genetic basis for conversion of commensal staphylococci into pathogens is not known. We hypothesized that Staphylococcus aureus genes for coagulation and agglutination in vertebrate blood (coa, vwb and clfA) may support pathogenic conversion. Expression of coa and vwb in Staphylococcus epidermidis or Staphylococcus simulans supported a coagulase-positive phenotype but not the ability to cause disease in a mouse model of bloodstream infection. However, the simultaneous expression of coa, vwb and clfA in coagulase-negative staphylococci enabled bacterial agglutination in plasma and enhanced survival of S. simulans in human whole blood. Agglutination of S. simulans in the bloodstream of infected mice upon expression of coa, vwb and clfA provided also a mean for dissemination and replication in distal organs. Thus, the acquisition of genes for bacterial agglutination with fibrin appear sufficient for the conversion of commensal staphylococci into invasive pathogens.

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Microbes and Infection, v. 19, issue 2, p. 101-109