Recent developments in staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2001 Jun;7(6):301-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1198-743x.2001.00258.x.


Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome describes a spectrum of superficial blistering skin disorders caused by the exfoliative toxins of Staphylococcus aureus. In its severe form, the exfoliation can spread to cover the entire body surface area. Two S. aureus exfoliative toxin serotypes affecting humans have been identified, but their purpose and mechanism of action have remained elusive. Based on their interaction with human and mouse epidermis, their three-dimensional structure and site-directed mutagenesis studies, it is speculated that they act as atypical serine proteases, and desmoglein-1 has now been identified as the specific epidermal substrate. Recent studies also suggest that the toxins may have a unique superantigenic activity. Clinically, new rapid diagnostic tests have been developed, including one that is able to detect the toxins directly from serum. With early diagnosis and appropriate management, mortality in children remains low and long-term complications are rare because the lesions are superficial and heal rapidly without scarring. In adults, however, the condition carries a mortality of almost 60% despite aggressive treatment, usually because of serious underlying illness. The recent developments in our understanding of the exfoliative toxins should lead to new and improved diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, including the use of specific antixoxins to prevent exfoliation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Exfoliatins / analysis*
  • Exfoliatins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin / pathology
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome / pathology*
  • Superantigens / immunology


  • Exfoliatins
  • Superantigens