Frequency of alpha- and beta-haemolysin in Staphylococcus aureus of bovine and human origin - A comparison between pheno- and genotype and variation in phenotypic expression

Frank Møller Aarestrup, H.D. Larsen, N.H.R. Eriksen, C.S. Elsberg, N.E. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The phenotypic expression of haemolysins and the presence of genes encoding alpha and beta-haemolysin were determined in 105 Sraphylococcus aureus isolates from bovine mastitis, 100 isolates from the nostrils of healthy humans, and 60 isolates from septicaemia in humans. Furthermore, the possible change in expression of haemolysins after subcultivation in human and bovine blood and milk was studied in selected isolates. alpha-haemolysin was expressed phenotypically in 39 (37%) of the bovine isolates, in 59 (59%) of the human carrier isolates, and in 40 (67%) of the isolates from septicaemia. beta-haemolysin was expressed in 76 (72%) bovine, 11 (11%) carrier, and 8 (13%) septicaemia isolates. Significantly more bovine than human isolates expressed beta-haemolysin and significantly fewer expressed alpha-haemolysin. Genotypically, the gene encoding alpha-haemolysin was detected in all isolates. A significant difference in the prevalence of the gene encoding P-haemolysin between the bovine (96%), human carrier (56%) and isolates from septicaemia (57%) was found. Of the bovine isolates, 75% of those carrying the gene encoding beta-haemolysin expressed beta-haemolysin phenotypically, whereas only 20% of the carrier isolates and 24% of the septicaemia isolates did so. No change in expression of haemolysins could be observed after subcultivation of bovine isolates in human blood and milk. After 5 to 10 subcultures in bovine blood and 1 to 4 in bovine milk, 9 of 10 human isolates originally phenotypically beta-haemolysin negative initiated the expression of beta-haemolysin. This study showed that a larger proportion of S. aureus of bovine origin carry the beta-haemolysin gene compared to isolates from humans. Furthermore, a larger number of the isolates of bovine origin carrying the beta-haemolysin gene express this gene phenotypically compared to isolates of human origin.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)425-430
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • bovine
  • alpha- and beta- haemolysin
  • frequency
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • pheno- and genotype
  • human

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