Staphylococcal enterotoxins: molecular aspects and detection methods
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Members of the Staphylococcus genus, especially Staphylococcus aureus, are the most common pathogens found in hospitals and in community-acquired infections. Some of their pathogenicity is associated with enzyme and toxin production. Until recently, S. aureus was the most studied species in the genus; however, in last few years, the rise of infections caused by coagulase-negative staphylococci has pointed out the need for further studies on virulence factors that have not yet been completely elucidated so as to better characterize the pathogenic potential of this group of microorganisms. Several staphylococcal species produce enterotoxins, a family of related proteins responsible for many diseases, such as the toxic-shock syndrome, septicemia and food poisoning. To this date, 23 different enterotoxin types have been identified besides toxic-shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1), and they can be divided into five phylogenetic groups. The mechanism of action of these toxins includes superantigen activity and emetic properties, which can lead to biological effects of infection. Various methods can detect genes that encode enterotoxins and their production. Molecular methods are the most frequently used at present. This review article has the objective to describe aspects related to the classification, structure and regulation of enterotoxins and toxic-shock syndrome toxin-1 detection methods.