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J Infect Dis. 2010 Dec 15;202(12):1866-76. doi: 10.1086/657419. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Comparative analysis of virulence and toxin expression of global community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Huashan Hospital, Shanghai 200040, People’s Republic of China.


The current pandemic of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) skin infections is caused by several genetically unrelated clones. Here, we analyzed virulence of globally occurring CA-MRSA strains in a rabbit skin infection model. We used rabbits because neutrophils from this animal species have relatively high sensitivity to Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), a toxin epidemiologically correlated with many CA-MRSA infections. Virulence in the rabbit model correlated with in vitro neutrophil lysis and transcript levels of phenol-soluble modulin α and α-toxin, but not PVL genes. Furthermore, abscesses caused by USA300 and its PVL-negative progenitor USA500 were comparatively large and similar in size, suggesting that PVL has played a limited role in the evolution of USA300 virulence in the context of skin infections. Our study indicates a major but not exclusive impact of virulence on the epidemiological success of USA300 and other CA-MRSA strains and emphasizes the importance of core genome-encoded toxins in CA-MRSA skin infections.

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