Skip directly to local search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Volume 16, Number 8—August 2010


Lethal Necrotizing Pneumonia Caused by an ST398 Staphylococcus aureus Strain

Suggested citation for this article

To the Editor: Several recent studies have shown massive colonization of livestock (especially pigs) and livestock workers by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in western Europe, Canada, and the United States (1,2). Livestock MRSA isolates belong almost exclusively to a single sequence type, ST398. Evidence of zoonotic and interhuman transmission of methicillin-resistant and methicillin-susceptible variants of this hitherto unusual sequence type was recently reported (1,3). S. aureus ST398 infections in humans with or without a history of contact with livestock include bacteremia, endocarditis, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and wound infections, none of which involve the expression of specific toxins. Indeed, ST398 isolates are negative for all major virulence factors, with the exception of some rare isolates that harbor the genes that encode the Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) (1), a toxin that is usually associated with community-acquired MRSA (4). We report a case of lethal necrotizing pneumonia caused by a PVL-positive methicillin-susceptible ST398 S. aureus isolate.

A previously healthy 14-year-old girl came to the emergency room with influenza-like illness, cough, fever, and a 2-day history of severe abdominal pain. She was given intravenous antibacterial chemotherapy with cefotaxime and amikacin. An exploratory laparotomy showed no signs of abdominal disease. Immediately after surgery, acute respiratory distress syndrome with hemodynamic instability developed in the patient; mechanical ventilation and inotropic support were required. A chest radiograph showed bilateral pulmonary infiltrates and pleural effusion. S. aureus was isolated by bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and blood culture, and staphylococcal necrotizing pneumonia was diagnosed. Clinical features, including the preceding influenza-like illness, were highly consistent with those previously reported (5). However, viral cultures and immunofluorescence assays were negative for all common respiratory viruses, and, although the patient had positive serologic test results for influenza B virus, antibody titers were too low to affirm influenza B infection. Severity f factors were present (5), including leukopenia, airway bleeding, and multiorgan failure. She died 6 days after symptom onset, with refractory shock and respiratory failure caused by bilateral pneumothorax. The S. aureus strain, which was susceptible to all tested antimicrobial agents except macrolides, was agr1/ST398, spa-type t571 and nontypeable by SmaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, which showed its relatedness to livestock-associated strains. The origin of the infection could not be determined. The presence of the genes encoding PVL was confirmed by PCR.

Thus, the spread of S. aureus ST398 among livestock is a matter of increasing concern because strains of this sequence type were able to acquire PVL genes and cause necrotizing pneumonia in a young immunocompetent patient. Transmission control and surveillance efforts are urgently needed to prevent further spread of such strains.

Jean-Philippe RasigadeComments to Author , Frederic Laurent, Philippe Hubert, François Vandenesch, and Jerome Etienne
Author affiliations: Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France (J.P. Rasigade, F. Laurent, J. Etienne, F. Vandenesch); Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris, France (P. Hubert)


  1. Wulf M, Voss A. MRSA in livestock animals—an epidemic waiting to happen? Clin Microbiol Infect. 2008;14:51921. DOIPubMed
  2. Smith TC, Male MJ, Harper AL, Kroeger JS, Tinkler GP, Moritz ED, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain ST398 is present in midwestern U.S. swine and swine workers. PLoS ONE. 2009;4:e4258. DOIPubMed
  3. Fanoy E, Helmhout LC, van der Vaart WL, Weijdema K, van Santen-Verheuvel MG, Thijsen SF, An outbreak of non-typeable MRSA within a residential care facility. Euro Surveill. 2009;14(1):pii=19080.
  4. Chambers HF. Community-associated MRSA-resistance and virulence converge. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:14857. DOIPubMed
  5. Gillet Y, Vanhems P, Lina G, Bes M, Vandenesch F, Floret D, Factors predicting mortality in necrotizing community-acquired pneumonia caused by Staphylococcus aureus containing Panton-Valentine leukocidin. Clin Infect Dis. 2007;45:31521. DOIPubMed

Suggested citation for this article: Rasigade J-P, Laurent F, Hubert P, Vandenesch F, Etienne J. Lethal necrotizing pneumonia caused by an ST398 Staphylococcus aureus strain [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2010 Aug [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1608.100317

Related Links

Top of Page

Table of Contents – Volume 16, Number 8—August 2010

Comments to the Authors

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Jean-Philippe Rasigade, Centre de Référence des Staphylocoques, Centre de Biologie Est, Groupement Hospitalier Est, 59 boulevard Pinel, Bron, 69677 France

characters(s) remaining.

Comment submitted successfully, thank you for your feedback.

Comments to the EID Editors

Please contact the EID Editors via our Contact Form.


Past Issues

Select a Past Issue:

World Malaria Day - April 25, 2014 - Invest in the future, defeat malaria

20th Anniversary - National Infant Immunization Week - Immunization. Power to Protect.

Art in Science - Selections from Emerging Infectious Diseases
Now available for order

CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives, Protecting People, Saving Money. Learn More About How CDC Works For You… The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO