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J Infect Dis. 2006 Dec 15;194(12):1761-70. Epub 2006 Nov 2.

Is Panton-Valentine leukocidin the major virulence determinant in community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus disease?

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Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) remains a major problem in hospitals, and it is now spreading in the community. A single toxin, Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), has been linked by epidemiological studies to community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) disease. However, the role that PVL plays in the pathogenesis of CA-MRSA has not been tested directly. To that end, we used mouse infection models to compare the virulence of PVL-positive with that of PVL-negative CA-MRSA representing the leading disease-causing strains. Unexpectedly, strains lacking PVL were as virulent in mouse sepsis and abscess models as those containing the leukotoxin. Isogenic PVL-negative (lukS/F-PV knockout) strains of USA300 and USA400 were as lethal as wild-type strains in a sepsis model, and they caused comparable skin disease. Moreover, lysis of human neutrophils and pathogen survival after phagocytosis were similar between wild-type and mutant strains. Although the toxin may be a highly linked epidemiological marker for CA-MRSA strains, we conclude that PVL is not the major virulence determinant of CA-MRSA.

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