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Abstract

Infective endocarditis and kidney infections are serious complications of Staphylococcus aureus sepsis. We investigated the role of superantigens (SAgs) in the development of lethal sepsis, infective endocarditis, and kidney infections. SAgs cause toxic shock syndrome, but it is unclear if SAgs contribute to infective endocarditis and kidney infections secondary to sepsis. We show in the methicillin-resistant S. aureus strain MW2 that lethal sepsis, infective endocarditis, and kidney infections in rabbits are critically dependent on high-level SAgs. In contrast, the isogenic strain lacking staphylococcal enterotoxin C (SEC), the major SAg in this strain, is attenuated in virulence, while complementation restores disease production. SAgs’ role in infective endocarditis appears to be both superantigenicity and direct endothelial cell stimulation. Maintenance of elevated blood pressure by fluid therapy significantly protects from infective endocarditis, possibly through preventing bacterial accumulation on valves and increased SAg elimination. These data should facilitate better methods to manage these serious illnesses.

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