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J Surg Res. 2003 Sep;114(1):42-9.

Intracellular survival of Staphylococcus aureus within cultured enterocytes.

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Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.



Little is known about the mechanisms involved in bacterial translocation from the intestinal lumen to extraintestinal sites. Because Staphylococcus aureus can colonize the intestinal tract, and because the intestinal tract is a reservoir for antibiotic resistant S. aureus, experiments were designed to clarify the interactions of S. aureus with cultured intestinal epithelial cells, and assays included measurements of bacterial internalization, enterocyte apoptosis, and epithelial barrier function.


Mature, confluent enterocytes were incubated 1 h with S. aureus, and the gentamicin protection assay was used to quantify intracellular bacterial survival at various time intervals up to 120 h later. Enterocyte apoptosis was assessed using Annexin V, and the permeability of confluent enterocyte cultures was measured by transepithelial electrical resistance and by transmigration of Escherichia coli across confluent enterocytes.S. aureus was internalized by cultured enterocytes and remained viable for up to 120 h within both HT-29 and Caco-2 enterocytes. S. aureus intracellular survival was associated with enterocyte apoptosis and with decreased transepithelial electrical resistance across confluent Caco-2 enterocytes. S. aureus intracellular survival over time was also associated with increased E. coli transmigration across confluent Caco-2, but not HT-29, enterocytes.


S. aureus appeared to survive within cultured enterocytes for prolonged time periods, up to several days. Survival of S. aureus within host eukaryotic cells, such as enterocytes, might facilitate persistence of S. aureus in infected tissue despite appropriate antibiotic therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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