A Link Between Virulence and Ecological Abundance in Natural Populations of Staphylococcus aureus
Day NPJ., Moore CE., Enright MC., Berendt AR., Smith JM., Murphy MF., Peacock SJ., Spratt BG., Feil EJ.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of severe infection in humans and yet is carried without symptoms by a large proportion of the population. We used multilocus sequence typing to characterize isolates of S. aureus recovered from asymptomatic nasal carriage and from episodes of severe disease within a defined population. We identified a number of frequently carried genotypes that were disproportionately common as causes of disease, even taking into account their relative abundance among carriage isolates. The existence of these ecologically abundant hypervirulent clones suggests that factors promoting the ecological fitness of this important pathogen also increase its virulence.