Staphylococcus aureus clonal dynamics and virulence factors in children with atopic dermatitis

J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Nov;125(5):977-82. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-202X.2005.23916.x.


A prospective cohort study was undertaken to determine the clonal dynamics of Staphylococcus aureus colonization and infection during 1 y in children with atopic dermatitis, and to correlate specific clones, accessory gene regulator (agr) groups, and production of virulence factors with eczema activity. Eleven children were examined every 6 wk with swaps taken from active eczema, anterior nose, axillae and perineum, and scoring of eczema activity by severity scoring of atopic dermatitis (SCORAD). Individual S. aureus clonal types were identified and examined for production of superantigens, toxins, and were assigned to agr groups. S. aureus colonization patterns ranged from rare colonization over transient colonization to persistent colonization by a single clone or a dynamic exchange of up to five clones. Production of no single virulence factor including superantigens and toxins was significantly associated with exacerbation of eczema. In four children there was a shift between visits in agr group of colonizing clones. These shifts were associated with an increased SCORAD value of 19 (SE = 7, p = 0.009). Change of clones belonging to the same agr group was not associated with a higher SCORAD value. In 11 of 12 cases with two different clones co-colonizing a child the clones belonged to the same agr group. In conclusion, this limited group of children with atopic dermatitis showed highly variable colonization patterns of S. aureus, and communication between strains by use of agr encoded octa peptides appeared to be active in vivo. Increased severity of eczema was related to a change in agr group and may have been because of inflammation triggered by the takeover of an antigenically different clone, as agr groups represent ancient phylogenetic lineages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / analysis
  • Adhesins, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cytotoxins / analysis
  • Cytotoxins / metabolism
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / microbiology*
  • Eczema / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Staphylococcal Infections / complications
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Superantigens / analysis
  • Superantigens / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Virulence / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / analysis
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Agr protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytotoxins
  • Superantigens
  • Trans-Activators
  • Virulence Factors