Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) is a cytotoxin that causes leukocyte destruction and tissue necrosis. It is produced by fewer than 5% of Staphylococcus aureus strains. A collection of 172 S. aureus strains were screened for PVL genes by polymerase chain reaction amplification. PVL genes were detected in 93% of strains associated with furunculosis and in 85% of those associated with severe necrotic hemorrhagic pneumonia (all community-acquired). They were detected in 55% of cellulitis strains, 50% of cutaneous abscess strains, 23% of osteomyelitis strains, and 13% of finger-pulp-infection strains. PVL genes were not detected in strains responsible for other infections, such as infective endocarditis, mediastinitis, hospital-acquired pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and enterocolitis, or in those associated with toxic-shock syndrome. It thus appears that PVL is mainly associated with necrotic lesions involving the skin or mucosa.