ISSN 2398-2977      

Staphylococcus aureus


Synonym(s): S. aureus




  • Family: Micrococcaceae.
  • GenusStaphylococcus.
  • Speciesaureus.


  • Gk: staphule - bunch of grapes; kokkos - grain or berry.
  • Latin: aureus - golden.

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Clinical Effects



  • Inhabits the distal nasal passage, external nares, and skin, especially near mucocutaneous borders such as the perineum, external genitalia and bovine udder.
  • May also transiently inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.


  • Reproduction by binary fission.


  • Spread by direct and indirect contact.
  • Many infections endogenous.
  • Rarely transmitted between species.

Pathological effects

  • Staphylococcus spp produce toxins and enzymes → variety of clinical syndromes, eg epidermolytic toxins in porcine exudative epidermitis, and alpha toxin (hemolysin) associated with gangrenous mastitis in cattle.
  • Pyogenic → abscess formation.
  • No lasting immunity after recovery.
  • Endogenous or exogenous infection → suppurative conditions (in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, poultry, rabbits, dogs and cats).
  • Wounds, burns, chronic debilitating disease and foreign body, eg suture → deep-seated invasive disease.
  • Equine dermatitis (not very common):
    • Lesions 3-5 mm diameter under tack or harness (may be caused by rubbing).
    • Raised nodules with scab.
    • Little pus; some red serous fluid.
    • Long-lasting; difficult to cure.
    • May cause systemic reaction → shock, toxemia or septicemia.

Other Host Effects

  • Same as Staphylococci spp Staphylococcus spp.
  • Colonizes skin and mucous membranes of mammalian species.


Control via animal

  • Avoid pressure from tack or harness.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Many strains are resistant to penicillin and tetracycline. Penicillinase-resistant penicillins, cephalosporins, chloramphenicol usually effective.
  • Methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains have been isolated from horses; molecular typing suggests that these differ from human strains.


  • None commercially available.
  • Autogenous bacterins have anecdotally been used against equine dermatitis.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references for PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Roudaud M, Allano M, Fairbrother J H & Sauvé F (2020) A retrospective study on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus spp. isolated from horses admitted to a Canadian veterinary teaching hospital between 2008 and 2018. Can Vet J 61 (11), 1197-1202 PubMed.
  • Cuny C & Witte W (2017) MRSA in equine hospitals and its significance for infections in humans. Vet Microbiol 200, 59-64 PubMed.
  • Weese J S et al (2006) Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in horses at a veterinary teaching hospital: frequency, characterization and association with clinical disease. J Vet Intern Med 20 (1), 182-186 PubMed.
  • Weese J S & Rousseau J (2005) Attempted eradication of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonisation in horses on two farms. Equine Vet J 37 (6), 510-514 PubMed.
  • Scott Weese J et al (2005) Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in horses and humans who work with horses. JAVMA 266(4), 580-583 PubMed.
  • Hartmann F A, Trostle S S, Klohnen A A O (1997) Isolation of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus from a postoperative wound infection in a horse. JAVMA 211 (5), 590 PubMed.
  • Shimizu A, Kawano J, Ozaki J et al (1991) Characteristics of Staphylococcus aureus isolated from lesions of horses. J Vet Med Sci 53 (4), 601-606 PubMed.
  • Markel M D et al (1986) Cellulitis associated with coagulase-positive staphylocci in race-horses; nine cases (1975-1984). JAVMA 189, 1600-1603 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • McVey D S, Kennedy M A & Chengappa M M (2013) Veterinary Microbiology. 3rd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, USA.

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