• Enterotoxin;
  • Polymerase chain reaction-DNA enzyme immunoassay;
  • Pyrogenic toxin superantigen;
  • Staphylococcus aureus


Staphylococcus aureus remains a leading cause of food-poisoning with substantial impact on public health. Using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction-DNA enzyme immunoassay (PCR-DEIA), we studied the presence of genes encoding staphylococcal enterotoxin-like (SEl) superantigens sem, sen, and seo, associated with the enterotoxin gene cluster (egc), in 429 clinical Staphylococcus aureus isolates. 294 (68.5%) isolates tested positive for at least one of the three SEl genes. In contrast to the fixed gene combination seg/sei also located on egc, a substantial number of isolates (n = 108) were found to bear only one or two of the genes encoding SElM, SElN, and SElO. Regarding the origin of the S. aureus isolates, a significant difference (P = 0.022) was found for the possession of seo (61.2% of blood isolates versus 42.9% of nasal strains). Also sem (not significantly) was found more common in blood isolates (52.1% versus 40.5%). The survey of the newly described SEl genes sem-seo supports the concept that most clinical S. aureus isolates harbor subsets of pyrogenic toxin superantigens. The potential contribution of seo and sem to the pathogenic potential of S. aureus has to be further evaluated.