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ISME J. 2010 Apr;4(4):577-84. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.151. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

Offsetting virulence and antibiotic resistance costs by MRSA.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


The prevalence of diverse MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) types in both hospital and community settings is a major health problem worldwide. Here we compare hospital-acquired MRSAs with large type II SCCmec elements with those prevalent in both hospital and community settings with smaller type IV SCCmec elements. We find that the type II but not the type IV SCCmec element causes the bacteria to reduce their levels of costly toxin expression. We compare the relative growth rates of these MRSA types and show that the type II SCCmec carrying MRSAs are more affected than those carrying type IV elements and from this we hypothesize that offsetting the costs associated with antibiotic resistance and toxin expression is why the type II are confined to hospital environments where antibiotic use, the prevalence of immunocompromised individuals and vector-mediated transmission is high. In contrast, those MRSAs that are also successful in the community can maintain their high levels of toxin expression due to a lower fitness burden associated with the smaller SCCmec element.

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