Laboratory Exposures to Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B

Emerg Infect Dis. 2004 Sep;10(9):1544-9. doi: 10.3201/eid1009.040250.


Staphylococcal enterotoxins are 23- to 29-kDa polypeptides in the bacterial superantigen protein family. Clinical symptoms from intoxication with staphylococcal enterotoxins vary by exposure route. Ingestion results in gastrointestinal symptoms, and inhalation results in fever as well as pulmonary and gastrointestinal symptoms. Review of occupational exposures at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases from 1989 to 2002 showed that three laboratory workers had symptoms after ocular exposure to staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). Conjunctivitis with localized cutaneous swelling occurred in three persons within 1 to 6 hours after exposure to SEB; two of these persons also had gastrointestinal symptoms, which suggests that such symptoms occurred as a result of exposure by an indirect cutaneous or ocular route. Ocular exposures from SEB resulting in conjunctivitis and localized swelling have not previously been reported. Symptoms from these patients and review of clinical symptoms of 16 laboratory-acquired inhalational SEB intoxications may help healthcare workers evaluate and identify SEB exposures in laboratory personnel at risk.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity
  • Enterotoxins / toxicity*
  • Eye Diseases / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / standards
  • Male


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Enterotoxins
  • enterotoxin B, staphylococcal