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Infect Genet Evol. 2011 Mar;11(2):446-53. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2010.12.005. Epub 2010 Dec 21.

Cross-species spread of SCCmec IV subtypes in staphylococci.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216, USA.


Staphylococcal chromosomal cassette mec (SCCmec) is a mobile genetic element that carries resistance genes for beta-lactam antibiotics. Coagulase-negative staphylococci, such as S. epidermidis, are thought to be a reservoir of diverse SCCmec elements that can spread to the most virulent staphylococcal species, S. aureus, but very little is known about the extent of cross-species spread of these elements in natural populations or their dynamics in different species. We addressed these questions using a sample of 86 S. aureus and S. epidermidis isolates with SCCmec type IV that were collected from a single hospital over a period of 6 months. To subtype SCCmec IV, we used multiplex PCR to detect structural variations and we used sequences from a fragment of the ccrB gene and from the dru repeats to detect additional variations. Multiplex PCR had significantly lower typeability than ccrB:dru sequencing, due to more nontypeable isolates among S. epidermidis. No statistically significant differences in diversity were detected by subtyping method or species. Interestingly, while only 4 of 24 subtypes (17%) were shared between species, these so-called shared subtypes represented 58 of 86 isolates (67%). The shared subtypes differed significantly between species in their frequencies. The shared subtypes were also significantly more concordant with genetic backgrounds in S. aureus than in S. epidermidis. Moreover, the shared subtypes had significantly higher minimum inhibitory concentrations to oxacillin in S. aureus than in S. epidermidis. This study has identified particular SCCmec IV subtypes with an important role in spreading beta-lactam resistance between species, and has further revealed some species differences in their abundance, linkage to genetic background, and antibiotic resistance level.

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