Increased adherence of Staphylococcus aureus from cystic fibrosis lungs to airway epithelial cells

U. E. Schwab, A. E. Wold, J. L. Carson, M. W. Leigh, P. W. Cheng, P. H. Gilligan, T. F. Boat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Airway colonization by Staphylococcus aureus is a frequent feature of cystic fibrosis (CF). To assess the pathogenesis of selective colonization with this organism, we compared the capacity of S. aureus isolated from the respiratory tract of CF and non-CF patients to adhere to epithelial cells from the upper and lower airways of CF and control subjects. Bacterial adherence to bronchial epithelial cell lines was significantly greater for CF than for non-CF isolates (p < 0.001). Of 17 CF S. aureus isolates 12 adhered at a level > 1 bacterium per cell; this was true for only 1 of 14 non-CF isolates. CF S. aureus isolates also bound more avidly than non-CF isolates to ciliated (p < 0.05) and squamous nasal cells (p < 0.02) and buccal epithelial cells (p < 0.005) freshly harvested by scraping. Each S. aureus isolate bound with equal avidity to epithelial cells from CF patients and healthy individuals. Adherence was not related to sex, age, severity of pulmonary disease, presence of other microorganisms in the airways, or genotype of the CF hosts. Binding of S. aureus was blocked by proteinase treatment of organisms, suggesting that adherence is mediated by one or more peptide adhesins. We propose that the high prevalence of adherent S. aureus is due either to selection of adherent strains by CF airways or to induction of an adherent phenotype by factors residing at the CF airways surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-369
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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