Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive, round-shaped bacterium that is a member of the Firmicutes, and it is a usual member of the microbiota of the body, frequently found in the upper respiratory tract and on the skin. It is often positive for catalase and nitrate reduction and is a facultative anaerobe that can grow without the need for oxygen. Although S. aureus usually acts as a commensal of the human microbiota it can also become an opportunistic pathogen, being a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.
Pathogenic strains often promote infections by producing virulence factors such as potent protein toxins, and the expression of a cell-surface protein that binds and inactivates antibodies.
The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of S. aureus such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is a worldwide problem in clinical medicine. Despite much research and development, no vaccine for S. aureus has been approved.