Ecology of toxic shock syndrome: amplification of toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 by materials of medical interest

Rev Infect Dis. Jan-Feb 1989;11 Suppl 1:S182-6; discussion S186-7. doi: 10.1093/clinids/11.supplement_1.s182.


Historically, the literature suggests that staphylococcal exoproteins, including enterotoxins, are stimulated by various physicochemical ecologic factors, many of which have been shown to stimulate production of toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST-1). The propensity of different fibers and other substances to amplify TSST-1 production in toxic shock syndrome-associated strains of Staphylococcus aureus, as well as a comparative analysis of the underlying mechanisms of TSST-1 production, are reported. Two hundred twenty intravaginal devices or other products and materials and 60 experimental controls were examined for their propensity to induce TSST-1 production. Certain materials are superior to unaltered cotton in providing a more absorbent fiber--nutrients are efficiently drawn in, concentrating protein between fibers, and thereby creating an ideal physicochemical environment for the amplification of TSST-1 and other toxins. The greatest stimulation of TSST-1 was observed with (in decreasing order): polyester and carboxymethyl cellulose, polyacrylates, viscose rayon, gelatin foam, polyurethane, and cotton. No toxin was found with nasal tampons (polymer of polyvinyl acetal) or with vaginal cups (an elastomeric polymer). Results are discussed in terms of specific ecologic parameters from historical as well as recent perspectives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Toxins*
  • Cellulose
  • Contraceptive Devices, Female
  • Enterotoxins / biosynthesis*
  • Gelatin
  • Gossypium
  • Humans
  • Infant Care
  • Polyesters
  • Polyurethanes
  • Shock, Septic / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Superantigens*
  • Tampons, Surgical*


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Enterotoxins
  • Polyesters
  • Polyurethanes
  • Superantigens
  • enterotoxin F, Staphylococcal
  • Gelatin
  • Cellulose
  • rayon, purified