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J Infect Dis. 2006 Jun 1;193(11):1495-503. Epub 2006 Apr 21.

Roles of 34 virulence genes in the evolution of hospital- and community-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



The extent to which the horizontal transfer of virulence genes has contributed to the emergence of contemporary virulent strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in hospital and community settings is poorly understood.


Epidemiologically well-characterized MRSA isolates collected over 8.5 years were genotyped and tested for the presence of 34 virulence genes.


Six strain types accounted for 88.2% of all MRSA infections. The evolution of contemporary hospital and community phenotypes within the CC8 and CC30 lineages--2 background genomes that produced historical pandemic MRSA clones--were associated with multiple horizontal acquisitions of virulence genes. The epidemic community phenotype of a CC8 strain, designated ST8:USA300, was linked to the acquisition of staphylococcal cassette chromosome (SCC)mec type IV, the genes for Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), and the enterotoxin Q and K genes. Similarly, the epidemic community phenotype of a CC30 strain, ST30:USA1100, was linked to the acquisition of SCCmec type IV and the pvl genes. In contrast, the epidemic hospital phenotype of another CC30 strain, ST36:USA200, was associated with the acquisition of SCCmec type II, the enterotoxin A gene, and the toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 gene. The pvl genes appear not to be essential for the evolution OF other community-associated strains of mrsa, including ST8:USA500 and ST59:USA1000.


The horizontal transfer of virulence genes, although infrequent, is epidemiologically associated with the emergence of new virulent strains of MRSA.

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