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Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of severe infection in humans and yet is carried without symptoms by a large proportion of the population. We used multilocus sequence typing to characterize isolates of S. aureus recovered from asymptomatic nasal carriage and from episodes of severe disease within a defined population. We identified a number of frequently carried genotypes that were disproportionately common as causes of disease, even taking into account their relative abundance among carriage isolates. The existence of these ecologically abundant hypervirulent clones suggests that factors promoting the ecological fitness of this important pathogen also increase its virulence.

Original publication




Journal article


Science (New York, N.Y.)

Publication Date





114 - 116


Centre for Tropical Medicine, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK.


Nose, Humans, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcal Infections, Community-Acquired Infections, Cross Infection, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Carrier State, Virulence, Recombination, Genetic, Genotype, Point Mutation, Genes, Bacterial, Genetic Variation