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Dispersal of Staphylococcus aureus Into the Air Associated With a Rhinovirus Infection

  • Stefano Bassetti (a1), Werner E. Bischoff (a1), Mark Walter (a1), Barbara A. Bassetti-Wyss (a1), Lori Mason (a1), Beth A. Reboussin (a2), Ralph B. D'Agostino (a2), Jack M. Gwaltney (a3), Michael A. Pfaller (a4) and Robert J. Sherertz (a1)...

To determine whether healthy adult nasal carriers of Staphylococcus aureus can disperse S. aureus into the air after rhinovirus infection.


We investigated the “cloud” phenomenon among adult nasal carriers of S. aureus experimentally infected with a rhinovirus. Eleven volunteers were studied for 16 days in an airtight chamber wearing street clothes, sterile garb, or sterile garb plus surgical mask; rhinovirus inoculation occurred on day 2. Daily quantitative air, nasal, and skin cultures for S. aureus; cold symptom assessment; and nasal rhinovirus cultures were performed.


Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Wake Forest University undergraduate or graduate students who had persistent nasal carriage of S. aureus for 4 or 8 weeks.


After rhinovirus inoculation, dispersal of S. aureus into the air increased 2-fold with peak increases up to 34-fold. Independent predictors of S. aureus dispersal included the time period after rhinovirus infection and wearing street clothes (P < .05). Wearing barrier garb but not a mask decreased dispersal of S. aureus into the air (P < .05).


Virus-induced dispersal of S. aureus into the air may have an important role in the transmission of S. aureus and other bacteria.

Corresponding author
Section on Infectious Diseases, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC
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