Multidrug Efflux Pumps in Staphylococcus aureus: an Update

Sofia Santos Costa 1, 2, Miguel Viveiros 1, 3, Leonard Amaral 1, 3, Isabel Couto 1, 2, *
1 1Grupo de Micobactérias, Unidade de Microbiologia Médica, Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (IHMT, UNL), Portugal
2 2Centro de Recursos Microbiológicos (CREM), UNL, Portugal
3 3COST ACTION BM0701 (ATENS), Brussels, Belgium

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© Costa et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Grupo de Micobactérias, Unidade de Microbiologia Médica, Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropi-cal, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Rua da Junqueira 100, 1349-008 Lisbon, Portugal; Tel: +351-21-3652652; Fax: +351-21-3632105; E-mail:


The emergence of infections caused by multi- or pan-resistant bacteria in the hospital or in the community settings is an increasing health concern. Albeit there is no single resistance mechanism behind multiresistance, multidrug efflux pumps, proteins that cells use to detoxify from noxious compounds, seem to play a key role in the emergence of these multidrug resistant (MDR) bacteria. During the last decades, experimental data has established their contribution to low level resistance to antimicrobials in bacteria and their potential role in the appearance of MDR phenotypes, by the extrusion of multiple, unrelated compounds. Recent studies suggest that efflux pumps may be used by the cell as a first-line defense mechanism, avoiding the drug to reach lethal concentrations, until a stable, more efficient alteration occurs, that allows survival in the presence of that agent.

In this paper we review the current knowledge on MDR efflux pumps and their intricate regulatory network in Staphylococcus aureus, a major pathogen, responsible from mild to life-threatening infections. Particular emphasis will be given to the potential role that S. aureus MDR efflux pumps, either chromosomal or plasmid-encoded, have on resistance towards different antimicrobial agents and on the selection of drug - resistant strains. We will also discuss the many questions that still remain on the role of each specific efflux pump and the need to establish appropriate methodological approaches to address all these questions.

Keywords: Antibiotics, biocides, efflux pumps, multidrug resistance, Staphylococcus aureus.