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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2004 Mar 8;40(2):101-11.

Bridges from hospitals to the laboratory: genetic portraits of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clones.

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Laboratório de Genética Molecular, Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Oeiras, Portugal.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged in the early 1960's after the acquisition of the methicillin resistance gene mecA, which is carried by the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec). MRSA seemed to have arisen by multiple introductions of SCCmec into successful methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) lineages. MRSA is one of the most common agents of nosocomial infections worldwide increasing the cost and mortality compared to MSSA infections. Little by little, MRSA has acquired resistance to all antibiotics available in clinical practice, which complicates treatment. This situation was further aggravated by the recent reports of vanA-mediated vancomycin-resistant S. aureus. As a reaction to the emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant MRSA worldwide, international surveillance systems such as the CEM/NET initiative have been created. The characterization of over 3000 MRSA isolates from different regions of the world evidenced the existence of only a few epidemic clones spread worldwide, namely the Iberian, Brazilian, Hungarian, New York/Japan, Pediatric and EMRSA-16 clones. It was found that in surveillance or evolutionary studies strains should be characterized by a combination of different typing methods, namely pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, multi-locus sequence typing and SCCmec typing. In recent years, community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) has become a growing public health concern. However, although many authors reported the emergence of CA-MRSA isolates, a standard definition has not been created and the prevalence of MRSA among persons without risk factors seems to remain very low. CA-MRSA has distinct properties compared to epidemic nosocomial clones and its origin is still unclear. Certain authors suggest there is MRSA transmission from the hospital setting to the community, namely transfer of nosocomial MRSA minor clones or sporadic isolates showing a high degree of similarity with CA-MRSA; others believe CA-MRSA strains represent new acquisitions of SCCmec DNA in susceptible backgrounds. Many questions concerning this extraordinarily versatile and threatening pathogen remain unanswered, needing future investigation.

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