An outbreak of skin infections in neonates due to a Staphylococcus aureus strain producing the exfoliative toxin A

Fernanda Pimentel de Araujo, Marco Tinelli, Antonio Battisti, Angela Ercoli, Adriano Anesi, Annalisa Pantosti, Monica Monaco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Staphylococcus aureus is an important cause of infections in hospitalized neonates. Preterm or low birthweight infants are especially at risk to develop a S. aureus infection due to the immaturity of the immune system, length of hospital stay and invasive procedures. Exfoliative toxin (ET)-producing S. aureus is often responsible for neonatal infections, causing clinical manifestations such as staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, characterized by both localized blisters or generalized exfoliation of the skin. Methods: We describe an outbreak due to an S. aureus strain producing ETA occurring in a local hospital in Northern Italy. Molecular typing of the isolates included spa typing and multilocus sequence typing. DNA microarray hybridization was also performed on one representative strain. Results: In the period from July 2013 to February 2014, 12 neonates presented with skin infections, mainly bullae or pustules. Cultures of skin swabs yielded methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA). By molecular typing, an epidemic strain (t1393/ST5) was identified in nine neonates; microarray analysis and PCR revealed that it contained the ETA encoding gene. Screening of staff, mothers and healthy neonates and environmental cultures did not reveal the presence of the epidemic strain. However, the father of an infected neonate was found to be a carrier of MSSA t1393 five months after the outbreak started. Conclusion: Implementation of hygiene procedures and sanitization of the ward twice terminated the outbreak. Timely surveillance of infections, supported by molecular typing, is fundamental to prevent similar episodes among neonates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2018


  • ETA
  • Neonates
  • Outbreak
  • spa typing
  • Staphylococcus aureus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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