Superantigen genes encoded by the egc cluster and SaPIbov are predominant among Staphylococcus aureus isolates from cows, goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry

Davida S. Smyth, Patrick J. Hartigan, William J. Meaney, Ross Fitzgerald, Claudia F Deobald, Gregory A Bohach, Cyril J. Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In recent years several new staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) have been described, which currently have largely unknown frequencies of occurrence and roles in human or animal disease. One hundred and ninety-one Staphylococcus aureus isolates from cows (99), goats (39), sheep (23), rabbits (15), chickens (15) and a cat (1) were screened for SE genes sea–see, seg–seo and seq and for the tst gene encoding staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 using multiplex PCRs and individual PCRs for the seb and sek genes. One hundred and ten isolates tested positive for at least one of these 16 superantigen (SAg)-encoding genes. There were statistically significant differences in the frequencies of some of these SAg genes between isolates from different animals. No strain possessed either the sea or see gene. The sec gene was present in 51 isolates, the sed gene in eight and the seb gene in one. The seh gene was found in four strains and the sek and seq genes together in one isolate. The most common combinations of genes were the egc cluster, bearing the seg, sei, sem, sen and seo genes, in 47 isolates, the sec, sel and tst gene combination typical of the SaPIbov pathogenicity island in 44 isolates, the egc cluster lacking the seg gene in 11 isolates, the sed and sej genes in nine isolates, and the sec and tst genes without the sel gene in seven isolates. The higher frequencies of the sec and tst genes together and the lower frequencies of the egc gene cluster among the SAg gene-positive sheep or goat isolates compared to bovine isolates were statistically significant. Of 36 bovine isolates that were mitogenic for human T lymphocytes, four were negative for the 16 SAg genes tested for, while a further 14 gave borderline results in the mitogenicity assay, 12 of which were SAg gene-negative. Twenty-nine strains lacking all the SAg genes did not induce T-cell proliferation. This survey indicates that novel SE genes seg, sei, sel, sem, sen and seo along with the sec and tst genes predominate in S. aureus from animal hosts. The mitogenicity assays indicate that further uncharacterized SAgs may be present in bovine isolates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)401-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins/genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Cattle/microbiology
  • DNA Primers
  • Enterotoxins/genetics
  • Geography
  • Goats/microbiology
  • Multigene Family
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods
  • Poultry/microbiology
  • Rabbits/microbiology
  • Sheep/microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus/genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus/isolation & purification
  • Superantigens/genetics


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