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Clin Microbiol Rev. Oct 1997; 10(4): 781–791.
PMCID: PMC172944

Methicillin resistance in staphylococci: molecular and biochemical basis and clinical implications.

Abstract

Methicillin resistance in staphylococci is determined by mec, composed of 50 kb or more of DNA found only in methicillin-resistant strains. mec contains mecA, the gene for penicillin-binding protein 2a (PBP 2a); mecI and mecR1, regulatory genes controlling mecA expression; and numerous other elements and resistance determinants. A distinctive feature of methicillin resistance is its heterogeneous expression. Borderline resistance, a low-level type of resistance to methicillin exhibited by strains lacking mecA, is associated with modifications in native PBPs, beta-lactamase hyperproduction, or possibly a methicillinase. The resistance phenotype is influenced by numerous factors, including mec and beta-lactamase (bla) regulatory elements, fem factors, and yet to be identified chromosomal loci. The heterogeneous nature of methicillin resistance confounds susceptibility testing. Methodologies based on the detection of mecA are the most accurate. Vancomycin is the drug of choice for treatment of infection caused by methicillin-resistant strains. PBP 2a confers cross-resistance to most currently available beta-lactam antibiotics. Investigational agents that bind PBP 2a at low concentrations appear promising but have not been tested in humans. Alternatives to vancomycin are few due to the multiple drug resistances typical of methicillin-resistant staphylococci.

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Selected References

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