Sub-inhibitory stress with essential oil affects enterotoxins production and essential oil susceptibility in Staphylococcus aureus

Nat Prod Res. 2018 Mar;32(6):682-688. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2017.1338284. Epub 2017 Jun 8.


Fourteen wild strains of Staphylococcus aureus positive for gene sea were tested for enterotoxins production and the minimum inhibitory concentration of Leptospermum scoparium, Origanum majorana, Origanum vulgare, Satureja montana and Thymus vulgaris essential oils (EOs) were determined. After this trial, bacteria stressed with sub-inhibitory concentration of each EO were tested for enterotoxins production by an immunoenzymatic assay and resistance to the same EO. Oregano oil exhibited the highest antibacterial activity followed by manuka and thyme oils. After the exposure to a sub-inhibitory concentration of EOs, strains displayed an increased sensitivity in more than 95% of the cases. After treatment with oregano and marjoram EOs, few strains showed a modified enterotoxins production, while 43% of the strains were no longer able to produce enterotoxins after treatment with manuka EO. The results obtained in this study highlight that exposure to sub-inhibitory concentration of EO modifies strains enterotoxins production and EOs susceptibility profile.

Keywords: Essential oil; Staphylococcus aureus; enterotoxins; sub-inhibitory stress.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Enterotoxins / metabolism*
  • Leptospermum / chemistry
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oils, Volatile / administration & dosage
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Origanum / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Enterotoxins
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils