Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen that causes skin and soft tissue abscesses. Abscess formation is not unique to staphylococcal infection and purulent discharge has been widely considered a physiological feature of healing and tissue repair. Here we present a different view, whereby S. aureus deploys specific virulence factors to promote abscess lesions that are distinctive for this pathogen. In support of this model, only live S. aureus is able to form abscesses, requiring genes that act at one or more of four discrete stages during the development of these infectious lesions. Protein A and coagulases are distinctive virulence attributes for S. aureus, and humoral immune responses specific for these polypeptides provide protection against abscess formation in animal models of staphylococcal disease.
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