Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is a member of the Firmicutes, and is frequently found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin. Although S. aureus is not always pathogenic, it is a common cause of skin infections (e.g. boils), respiratory disease (e.g. sinusitis), and food poisoning. Disease-associated strains often promote infections by producing potent protein toxins, and expressing cell-surface proteins that bind and inactivate antibodies. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant forms of pathogenic S. aureus (e.g. MRSA) is a worldwide problem in clinical medicine.
Staphylococcus was first identified in Aberdeen, Scotland (1880) by the surgeon Sir Alexander Ogston in pus from a surgical abscess in a knee joint. This name was later appended to Staphylococcus aureus by Rosenbach who was credited by the official system of nomenclarture at the time. It is estimated that 20% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureus which can be found as part of the normal skin flora and in anterior nares of the nasal passages. S. aureus is the most common species of staphylococcus to cause Staph infections and is a successful pathogen due to a combination of nasal carriage and bacterial immuno-evasive strategies. S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses, from minor skin infections, such as pimples, impetigo, boils (furuncles), cellulitis folliculitis, carbuncles, scalded skin syndrome, and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome (TSS), bacteremia, and sepsis. Its incidence ranges from skin, soft tissue, respiratory, bone, joint, endovascular to wound infections. It is still one of the five most common causes of nosocomial infections and is often the cause of postsurgical wound infections. Each year, some 500,000 patients in American hospitals contract a staphylococcal infection.
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