Volume 19, Number 9—September 2013
From the Greek staphyle (bunch of grapes) and kokkos (berry), Staphylococcus is a genus of gram-positive spherical bacteria that commonly cause surgical and skin infections, respiratory disease, and food poisoning. In 1880, Scottish surgeon Sir Alexander Ogston first described staphylococci in pus from a surgical abscess in a knee joint: “the masses looked like bunches of grapes.” In 1884, German physician Friedrich Julius Rosenbach differentiated the bacteria by the color of their colonies: S. aureus (from the Latin aurum, gold) and S. albus (Latin for white). S. albus was later renamed S. epidermidis because of its ubiquity on human skin.
- Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 32nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.
- Classics in infectious diseases. “On abscesses.” Alexander Ogston (1844–1929. Rev Infect Dis. 1984;6:122–8.
- Orenstein A. The discovery and naming of Staphylococcus aureus [cited 2013 Jul 10]. http://www.antimicrobe.org/h04c.files/history/S-aureus.pdf
Suggested citation for this article: Etymologia: Staphylococcus. Emerg Infect Dis [Internet]. 2013 Sep [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1909.ET1909
- Page created: July 30, 2013
- Page last updated: August 20, 2013
- Page last reviewed: August 20, 2013
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Office of the Director (OD)