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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Nov;57(11):5233-8. doi: 10.1128/AAC.01058-13. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Transduction of staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec elements between strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

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Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a well-known public health concern. However, the means by which methicillin resistance genes are transferred among staphylococci in nature remains unknown. Older scientific literature suggests transduction as a means of mecA transfer, but the optimal conditions are reported to require plasmids and potentially a lysogenic phage. These reports preceded discovery of the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) elements. We undertook studies to confirm and clarify the conditions promoting transduction of SCCmec in S. aureus populations using well-characterized donor and recipient strains primarily of the USA300 lineage. Both bacteriophages 80α and 29 were capable of transducing SCCmec type IV and SCCmec type I to recipient strains of S. aureus. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and mec-associated dru typing were used to confirm the identity of the transductants. Transfer of mecA via transduction occurred at low frequency and required extended selection times for mecA gene expression and the presence of a penicillinase plasmid in the recipient. However, interference with the process by clavulanic acid and the necessity of lysogeny with 11 in the recipient or the presence of a small (4-kb) tetracycline resistance plasmid, as previously reported, were not confirmed. SCCmec transduction was occasionally associated with substantial deletions or truncation of SCCmec and the arginine catabolic metabolic element in USA300 recipients. Overall, these data clarify the conditions required for SCCmec transduction and document that rearrangements may occur during the process.

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