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Differentiation of endocarditic from nonendocarditic Staphylococcus aureus (SA) septicemia is prognostically and therapeutically important. A study of 68 cases of either SA or streptococcal sepsis, including 50 cases of SA sepsis of both cardiac and noncardiac origin, was done to determine the presence and titer of serum teichoic acid antibodies (TAA's) by double immunodiffusion. Thirty-seven uninfected controls were also examined. There was no statistical difference in either incidence or peak TAA titers in endocardial versus deepseated, extracardiac SA sepsis. However, in both of these groups, incidence and peak titers were significantly higher than in intravascular catheter-related SA sepsis, streptococcal endocarditis and controls (P<0.05). Peak TAA titers in SA sepsis develop on admission or shortly thereafter (6 to 11 days) and permit early decisions on degree of tissue infection, likelihood of metastatic seeding and necessity for higher-dose, longer-term antibiotic therapy.
Cases of catheter-related SA sepsis with no clinical evidence of metastatic SA seeding and with negative or low-titered (1:1) TAA's were classified as superficial sepsis. Treatment consisted of short-term, low-dose antistaphylococcal regimens and catheter removal. In posttherapy follow-up after 6 to 12 weeks, all of the patients were cured and no signs of endocarditis or deepseated SA infection developed.