Atlas of foodborne infections
transmitted by contaminated food and water

Atlas of Patogens Contents Information sources Glossary Administration

Staphylococcus aureus

CZ: zlatý stafylokok
EN: staphylococcus

Meat and Meat Products
Milk and Milk Products
Soft Cheeses
Hard Cheeses
Fish and Fish Products
Fruits and Vegetables
Water and Beverages


Foodborne Disease:
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staphylococcosis - food poisoning (staphyloenterotoxicosis; staphyloenterotoxemia) human illnesss with nausea, vomiting, retching, abdominal cramping, and prostration

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Staphylococcus aureus is a spherical Grampositive bacterium (coccus), which on microscopic examination appears in pairs, short chains, or bunched, grape-like clusters. These organisms are. Some strains are capable of producing a highly heat-stable protein enterotoxin that causes illness in humans - staphylococcal food poisoning (staphyloenterotoxicosis; staphyloenterotoxemia).

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, retching, abdominal cramping, and prostration. Recovery generally takes about three days. Death from staphylococcal food poisoning is very rare.
There are developed rapid methods based on monoclonal antibodies (e.g., ELISA, Reverse Passive Latex Agglutination), which are being evaluated for their efficacy in the detection of enterotoxins in food. These rapid methods can detect approximately 1.0 nanogram of toxin/g of food.

Foods that are frequently incriminated in staphylococcal food poisoning include meat and meat products; poultry and egg products; salads such as egg, tuna, chicken, potato, and macaroni; bakery products such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate éclairs; sandwich fillings; and milk and dairy products.

Staphylococci exist in air, dust, sewage, water, milk, and food or on food equipment, environmental surfaces, humans, and animals. Humans and animals are the primary reservoirs. Staphylococci are present in the nasal passages and throats and on the hair and skin of 50% or more of healthy individuals. Although food handlers are usually the main source of food contamination in food poisoning outbreaks, equipment and environmental surfaces can also be sources of contamination with S. aureus. Human intoxication is caused by ingesting enterotoxins produced in food by some strains of S. aureus, usually because the food has not been kept hot enough (60°C, or above) or cold enough (7.2°C, or below).

By contrast to other forms of food poisoning, food handlers play a major role in the transmission of this organism. Staphylococcus aureus is carried in the nose and throat of approximately 40% of healthy individuals and as such can be easily transferred to food via the hands. Most foods that have been associated with S. aureus poisoning have been ready-to-eat, often precooked foods that have been contaminated by poor handling practices and stored at incorrect temperatures.

Staphylococcus aureus must grow to levels of > 105 cells/g before producing the heat-stable staphylococcal toxin. This type of food poisoning can be minimized by the use of good personal hygiene and handling practices to prevent the contamination of ready-to-eat foods.

A notable feature of this organism is its ability to grow in salty environments.


Source: Detail of Staphylococcus aureus - scan microscopy
Source: Detail of Staphylococcus aureus colonies - scan microscopy
Source: microbiological cultivation
Source: Morphology of Staphylococcus
Source: Patogens under the light microscope (colored)
Source: Testing of antibiotic efficacy against Staphylococcus

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