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Int J Food Microbiol. 2006 Apr 15;108(1):36-41. Epub 2005 Dec 27.

Distribution of newly described enterotoxin-like genes in Staphylococcus aureus from food.

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Department of Food Hygiene and Consumer Protection, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Agricultural University of Wroclaw, Norwida 31, 50-375 Wroclaw, Poland.


Extensive analysis of the Staphylococcus aureus genome has allowed the identification of new genes encoding enterotoxin-like superantigens (SEls). Some of these are thought to be involved in staphylococcal food poisoning, while others do not elicit any emetic effect. The potential impact of these members of the enterotoxin-like family on the human organism seems to rely mainly on their superantigenic activity. In this paper the distribution of the genes coding for enterotoxin-like superantigens in S. aureus isolated from food was studied. Fifty isolates of S. aureus were examined and 27 were shown to be enterotoxigenic. Only 9 of the 27 strains carried genes encoding enterotoxins SEA-SEE. In 18 SEA-SEE-negative strains the presence of newly described enterotoxin genes was detected. All SEA-SEE-positive strains simultaneously carried genes of new SEls. We show that the gene encoding SElH (staphylococcal enterotoxin-like enterotoxin H) was the most frequently detected (n=14), while genes encoding SElI together with SElG accompanied by the other genes of the egc locus were detected in three strains. We also detected the presence of three less investigated genes: sep, sel, and sek. These genes were present in eight, two, and one isolate, respectively. In one strain, sep was accompanied by genes of other SEls, while in the remaining seven it was the only enterotoxin-like gene detected. The high prevalence of newly discovered enterotoxin genes, including the genes encoding emetic toxins, was demonstrated in food-derived strains. This supports the need for additional work on its role in food poisoning and, alternatively, to monitor its presence in S. aureus isolated from food. Our results suggest that yet unknown genetic elements encoding enterotoxin genes may exist.

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