Staphylococcus aureus chronic and relapsing infections: Evidence of a role for persister cells: An investigation of persister cells, their formation and their role in S. aureus disease

Bioessays. 2014 Oct;36(10):991-6. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400080. Epub 2014 Aug 6.


Staphylococcus aureus is an opportunistic pathogen capable of causing a variety of diseases including osteomyelitis, endocarditis, infections of indwelling devices and wound infections. These infections are often chronic and highly recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment. Persister cells appear to be central to this recalcitrance. A multitude of factors contribute to S. aureus virulence and high levels of treatment failure. These include its ability to colonize the skin and nares of the host, its ability to evade the host immune system and its development of resistance to a variety of antibiotics. Less understood is the phenomenon of persister cells and their role in S. aureus infections and treatment outcome. Persister cells occur as a sub-population of phenotypic variants that are tolerant to antibiotic treatment. This review examines the importance of persisters in chronic and relapsing S. aureus infections and proposes methods for their eradication.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; antibiotics; biofilm; persister; relapse; tolerance; toxin-antitoxin (TA).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents