Prevalence of enterotoxin genes in Staphylococcus aureus colonising food handlers: does nasal carriage status matter?

J. Ho, M. Boost, Margaret May O'Donoghue

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the association between the presence of staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) genes and nasal carriage status, and determined temporal changes in the prevalence of these genes in Staphylococcus aureus strains isolated from healthy carriers between 2002 and 2011. Three large samples of food handlers recruited in 2002, 2003 and 2011 were nasally sampled on two occasions to determine S. aureus colonisation status. Those carrying the same spa type on both occasions were defined as persistent carriers. Genes for SEs SEA–SEU were amplified and associations between carriage status and presence of SE genes were investigated. Although 80 % of nasal isolates harboured at least one SE gene over the sampling period, persistent carriers were significantly more likely to harbour enterotoxigenic S. aureus than transiently colonised subjects [odds ratio (OR) 2.52–3.06]. Strains from persistent carriers more commonly harboured sea, seb and sem. The prevalence of classical SE genes and sej, sem, sen, seo, seq and ses was stable over time, but seh, sel, sep, ser, set and selu increased significantly. Increased toxigenicity of isolates from persistent carriers is consistent with the elevated antibody levels to classical SEs previously reported in persistent carriers, supporting the hypothesis that superantigen production in the nasal cavity may enhance colonisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2177-2181
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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