Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Staphylococcus aureus

Synonym(s): S. aureus

Contributor(s): Richard Walker, Susan Dawson, Molly Varga, Vetstream Ltd




  • Family: Micrococcaceae.
  • Genus:Staphylococcus.
  • Species:aureus.


  • Gk:staphyle- bunch of grapes;coccus- grain or berry; Latin:aureus- golden.

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Clinical Effects



  • Inhabits the distal nasal passages, external nares, and skin, especially near mucocutaneous borders such as the perineum, external genitalia and bovine udder.
  • May also transiently inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.


  • Reproduction by binary fission.


  • Spread by direct and indirect contact.
  • Many infections endogenous.
  • Rarely transmitted between species.
  • Low virulence strains are associated with small numbers in a flock affected; more virulent strains cause epidemic spread in rabbitries.
  • Introduction of infection into a rabbit flock is most often associated with the introduction of new stock.

Pathological effects

  • Staphylococcusspp produce a number of toxins and enzymes    →     variety of clinical syndromes, eg epidermolytic toxins in porcine exudative epidermitis (due toS. hyicus) and alpha toxin (hemolysin) is associated with gangrenous mastitis in cattle.
  • Pyogenic    →     abscess formation.
  • No lasting immunity after recovery.
  • Wounds, burns, chronic debilitating disease and foreign body, eg suture   deep-seated invasive disease.
  • Endogenous or exogenous infection    →    suppurative conditions (in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, poultry, rabbits, dogs and cats).
  • In rabbits commonly causes subcutaneous abscesses, mastitis, pododermatitis and septicemia.

Other Host Effects

  • Same asStaphylococcusspp    Staphylococcus spp  .
  • Colonizes skin and mucous membranes of mammalian species.


Control via chemotherapies

  • Penicillin (for sensitive strains), cloxacillin, macrolides, tetracycline    Tetracycline  .
  • Many strains are resistant to penicillin   Penicillin   and tetracycline. Penicillinase-resistant penicillins, cephalosporins, chloramphenicol   Chloramphenicol   usually effective.
  • Methicillin-resistantS. aureus strains have been isolated from horses; molecular typing suggests that these differ from human strains.


  • None commercially available.

Other countermeasures

  • Surgical debridement and marsupialization of abscesses.
  • In an endemically infected flock control may require culling of all rabbits with re-stocking after disinfection.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Marín P, Álamo L, Escudero E et al (2012) Fluoroquinolone susceptibility of Staphylococcus aureus strains isolated from commercial rabbit farms in Spain. Vet Rec 170 (20), 519 PubMed.
  • Hermans K, Devriese L A, Haesebrouck F (2003) Rabbit staphylococcosis: difficult solutions for serious problems. Vet Microbiol 91 (1), 57-64 PubMed.
  • Hoekstra K A & Paulton R J (1996) Antibiotic sensitivity of Staphylococcus aureus and Staph. intermedius of canine and feline origin. Letters in Applied Microbiol 22 (3), 192-194 PubMed.
  • Cefai C, Ashurst S & Owens C (1994) Human carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus linked with pet dog. Lancet 344 (8921), 539-540 PubMed.
  • Carolan M G (1986) Staphylococcosis in rabbits. Vet Rec 119 (16), 412 PubMed.
  • Okerman L, Devriese L A, Maertens L et al (1984) Cutaneous staphylococcosis in rabbits. Vet Rec 114 (13), 313-315 PubMed.