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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2008 Jun;14(6):546-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2008.01975.x. Epub 2008 Mar 27.

Analysis of superantigenic toxin Vbeta T-cell signatures produced during cases of staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome and septic shock.

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INSERM U851, Université Lyon 1, Centre National de Référence des Staphylocoques, Faculté de Médecine Laennec, Lyon, France.


Most clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus harbour genes encoding superantigenic toxins that bind the Vbeta domain of T-cells, but little information is available concerning superantigenic toxin production during staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and septic shock. This prospective study investigated 14 patients with staphylococcal TSS or septic shock; the toxin gene profile of each isolate was determined and flow-cytometry was used to identify the discriminant Vbeta signature (DVbetaS) of each superantigenic toxin in vitro. Attempts were also made to identify in-vivo production of superantigenic toxin DVbetaS in patients' blood. The DVbetaS identified in vitro were: toxic shock syndrome toxin (TSST)-1, Vbeta 2; staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE), Vbeta 9, Vbeta 22; SEB, Vbeta 3, Vbeta 14, Vbeta 17; SED, Vbeta 1, Vbeta 8; egc, Vbeta 5.3, Vbeta 7.1, Vbeta 9, Vbeta 23; and SElK, Vbeta 5.1. The DVbetaS of TSST-1 and SEB were detected in patients with menstrual and non-menstrual TSS, respectively, whereas no Vbeta signature was detected during septic shock. All patients with septic shock (but only one patient with TSS) had lymphopenia and/or impaired cellular immunity. Detection of a superantigenic toxin DVbetaS may help to show which toxin is produced during staphylococcal TSS, thus confirming the diagnosis and hastening the administration of anti-toxin therapy. In contrast, this approach failed to demonstrate superantigenic toxin involvement in cases of septic shock. In this latter condition, a superantigenic toxin may not be produced by S. aureus, or its production may occur without expansion of targeted T-cells because of T-cell apoptosis and/or anergy.

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