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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2000 May;6(5):239-45.

Clonal dissemination of epidemic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Belgium and neighboring countries.

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Laboratoire de Référence MRSA-Staphylocoques, Department of Microbiology, Hôpital Erasme, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.



To determine the diversity of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) types among epidemic strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) recovered in Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands over the period 1981-94.


MRSA strains collected in a multicenter survey in Belgium (n = 171) and from reference laboratories in neighboring countries (n = 102) were characterized by PFGE analysis using the SmaI enzyme.


In total, 32 PFGE types were found. Epidemic PFGE type 1, first recognized in 1984, accounted for 82% of Belgian strains (87% of hospitals) and 51% of European MRSA strains. Four other internationally epidemic PFGE types (types 8, 10, 11 and 12) were less widely disseminated and more recently detected (1991-94), each recovered from two or three countries. International spread of two PFGE types was linked to transfer of colonized patients to Dutch hospitals from another country where this type was frequently recovered.


Genotypic analysis indicated widespread distribution of several outbreak-associated MRSA strains over large European regions, which was in some instances related to interhospital patient transfer. These findings underscore the need for standardized international surveillance and control of MRSA transmission between healthcare institutions across Europe.

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