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Pediatr Res. 1995 Jan;37(1):70-4.

Comparative virulence of Staphylococcus epidermidis isolates in a murine catheter model.

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Biostatistics, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105.


Among coagulase-negative staphylococci, Staphylococcus epidermidis is the species most commonly implicated in catheter-related infections. Whether some staphylococcal organisms are inherently more virulent than others, or whether their ability to infect relates more to the sheer numbers of organisms at the catheter site, remains unclear. We therefore compared eight S. epidermidis isolates and two other coagulase-negative staphylococci using a murine model that allowed us to quantify catheter colonization and abscess formation in the same animal. The organisms were isolated from different clinically relevant settings and were classified according to their slime phenotype. The ability to evoke abscesses or colonize catheters in half of the animals (ID50) was assessed. ID50 inoculum titers (log10 data +/- SD) ranged widely, from 8.5 +/- 0.3 to 10.2 +/- 0.2 for abscess formation (p < 0.005) and from 7.5 +/- 0.5 to 10.3 +/- 1.0 for catheter colonization (p < 0.005). ID50 values by statistical criteria suggested variability among organisms in the ability to induce abscess formation. High slime production correlated with both parameters, but not with the clinical source of the isolate. Our findings demonstrate impressive heterogeneity in the ability of a representative group of S. epidermidis isolates to colonize catheters and to evoke abscess formation and implicate slime productivity as a major virulence factor. The murine model used permitted simultaneous analysis of multiple factors involved in pathogenesis and should be useful in establishing the basis of S. epidermidis pathogenicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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