What’s happened to Staphylococcus intermedius? Taxonomic revision and emergence of multi-drug resistance



Staphylococcus intermedius has been the predominant coagulase-positive Staphylococcus isolated from canine skin and mucosae and the most commonly reported staphylococcal pathogen in small animal practice for the last 35 years. Although microbiological tests have historically indicated variability in biochemical characteristics amongst S. intermedius isolates from animals, an acceptable level of diagnostic accuracy for clinical purposes was readily achievable with routine phenotypic testing. However, three recent developments have changed our understanding of the term “S. intermedius” and have challenged veterinary bacteriologists to ensure correct species identification of pathogenic staphylococci from small animals. First, the increasing recognition of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in small animal practice and its human health implications demand accurate species identification. Secondly, the application of molecular techniques to analysis of staphylococcal isolates has led to a revised taxonomy and canine isolates of S. intermedius being re-named S. pseudintermedius. Thirdly, the recent, rapid emergence of meticillin- and multi-drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) has become a major therapeutic challenge in veterinary practice worldwide, including the UK. This article discusses the background of the recent taxonomic changes within the genus Staphylococcus and reviews the key features of MRSP and its implications for day-to-day laboratory diagnosis and small animal practice.