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Nat Microbiol. 2017 Jan 23;2:16257. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.257.

Wall teichoic acids mediate increased virulence in Staphylococcus aureus.

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Department of Medicine, Interfacultary Institute for Microbiology and Infection Medicine (IMIT), University of Tübingen, Elfriede-Aulhorn Straße 6, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Department of Microbiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.
Medical Microbiology, UMC Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584CX Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Immunology, University Medicine Greifswald, Ferdinand-Sauerbruch-Straße DZ7, 17475 Greifswald, Germany.
German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Partner Site Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) are the cause of a severe pandemic consisting primarily of skin and soft tissue infections. The underlying pathomechanisms have not been fully understood and we report here a mechanism that plays an important role for the elevated virulence of CA-MRSA. Surprisingly, skin abscess induction in an animal model was correlated with the amount of a major cell wall component of S. aureus, termed wall teichoic acid (WTA). CA-MRSA exhibited increased cell-wall-associated WTA content (WTAhigh) and thus were more active in inducing abscess formation via a WTA-dependent and T-cell-mediated mechanism than S. aureus strains with a WTAlow phenotype. We show here that WTA is directly involved in S. aureus strain-specific virulence and provide insight into the underlying molecular mechanisms that could guide the development of novel anti-infective strategies.

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