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J Infect Dis. 1990 Jun;161(6):1153-69.

Colonial morphology of staphylococci on Memphis agar: phase variation of slime production, resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, and virulence.

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Research Service, Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital, Columbia, MO 65201.


The growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis sensu stricto and Staphylococcus saprophyticus on Memphis agar yielded up to 6 morphotypes with each strain. With S. epidermidis, one morphotype produced slime (rho) but became non-slime-producing (epsilon) at a high frequency. The slime-producing rho variants were methicillin-resistant and more virulent than methicillin-susceptible epsilon variants in an endocarditis model. With S. saprophyticus, phase variation was of higher frequency. Nitrosoguanidine mutagenesis produced a stable blue epsilon form that was more virulent than the parent in a mouse model of urinary tract infection. Mutants with the blue epsilon phenotype differed from gold epsilon parents in a variety of phenotypic properties, including increased resistance to oxacillin. These staphylococcal species have a high frequency of phase variation: Phase variants differ in antibiotic resistance and virulence, which is only partially correlated with suggested virulence factors such as slime production.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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