A scanning electron microscope image of staphylococcus aureus (‘golden staph’) cells.

Up close with golden staph

Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium that is often found on the skin and in the nose and respiratory tract. It’s not always harmful, but it can cause food poisoning, sinusitis, and – infamously – skin infections that may lead to sores oozing a yellowish pus (this is responsible for the microbe’s more common name: golden staph).

First identified in 1880, S. aureus has become a problem for doctors around the world in recent decades with the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains that are invulnerable to almost all of medicine’s antimicrobial weapons.

Developing new antibiotics is an area of urgent research. One of the most promising avenues comes from a recent study that pinned down a particular S. aureus gene which may be responsible for increased virulence.