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J Infect Dis. 2003 Dec 15;188(12):1898-908. Epub 2003 Dec 9.

Structure and distribution of an unusual chimeric genetic element encoding macrolide resistance in phylogenetically diverse clones of group A Streptococcus.

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Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana 59840, USA.


The resistance of group A Streptococcus (GAS) to macrolide antibiotics is now a worldwide problem. Preliminary sequencing of the genome of an erythromycin-resistant serotype M6 clone that was responsible for a pharyngitis outbreak in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was conducted to determine the structure of the genetic element containing the mefA gene, which encodes a macrolide efflux protein. The mefA gene is associated with a 58.8-kb chimeric genetic element composed of a transposon inserted into a prophage. This element also encodes a putative extracellular protein with a cell-wall anchoring motif (LPKTG) located at the carboxyterminus. The mefA element was present in phylogenetically diverse GAS strains isolated throughout the United States. Culture supernatants, prepared after mitomycin C treatment, of a strain representing the outbreak clone contained mefA element DNA in a DNAse-resistant form. Together, these data provide new information about the molecular genetic basis of macrolide resistance and dissemination in GAS strains.

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