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1.  Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Sequence Type 239-III, Ohio, USA, 2007–20091 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(10):1557-1565.
Identification of virulent strains emphasizes the need for molecular surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3471631  PMID: 23018025
Staphylococcus aureus; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; MRSA ST239-III; bacteria; sequence type; virulent clones; Brazilian clone; Portuguese clone; Ohio; United States
2.  Draft Genome Sequences of Five Multilocus Sequence Types of Nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(4):e00520-13.
Nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae can colonize the human nasopharynx and cause conjunctivitis and otitis media. Different deletions in the capsular polysaccharide biosynthesis locus and different multilocus sequence types have been described for nonencapsulated strains. Draft genome sequences were generated to provide insight into the genomic diversity of these strains.
PMCID: PMC3735068  PMID: 23887920
3.  Draft Genome Sequences of Staphylococcus aureus Sequence Type 34 (ST34) and ST42 Hybrids 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(10):2740-2741.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of antimicrobial-resistant infections of humans. Hybrids of S. aureus, which originate from large-scale chromosomal recombinations between parents of distinct genetic backgrounds, are of interest from clinical and evolutionary perspectives. We present draft genome sequences of two S. aureus hybrids of sequence type 34 (ST34) and ST42.
PMCID: PMC3347186  PMID: 22535928
4.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Staphylococcus aureus Carriage in a Community-Based Sample of Mexican-Americans in Starr County, Texas 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0142130.
Staphylococcus aureus is the number one cause of hospital-acquired infections. Understanding host pathogen interactions is paramount to the development of more effective treatment and prevention strategies. Therefore, whole exome sequence and chip-based genotype data were used to conduct rare variant and genome-wide association analyses in a Mexican-American cohort from Starr County, Texas to identify genes and variants associated with S. aureus nasal carriage. Unlike most studies of S. aureus that are based on hospitalized populations, this study used a representative community sample. Two nasal swabs were collected from participants (n = 858) 11–17 days apart between October 2009 and December 2013, screened for the presence of S. aureus, and then classified as either persistent, intermittent, or non-carriers. The chip-based and exome sequence-based single variant association analyses identified 1 genome-wide significant region (KAT2B) for intermittent and 11 regions suggestively associated with persistent or intermittent S. aureus carriage. We also report top findings from gene-based burden analyses of rare functional variation. Notably, we observed marked differences between signals associated with persistent and intermittent carriage. In single variant analyses of persistent carriage, 7 of 9 genes in suggestively associated regions and all 5 top gene-based findings are associated with cell growth or tight junction integrity or are structural constituents of the cytoskeleton, suggesting that variation in genes associated with persistent carriage impact cellular integrity and morphology.
PMCID: PMC4646511  PMID: 26569114
5.  Single-molecule sequencing reveals the molecular basis of multidrug-resistance in ST772 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):388.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major cause of hospital-associated infection, but there is growing awareness of the emergence of multidrug-resistant lineages in community settings around the world. One such lineage is ST772-MRSA-V, which has disseminated globally and is increasingly prevalent in India. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of DAR4145, a strain of the ST772-MRSA-V lineage from India, and investigate its genomic characteristics in regards to antibiotic resistance and virulence factors.
Sequencing using single-molecule real-time technology resulted in the assembly of a single continuous chromosomal sequence, which was error-corrected, annotated and compared to nine draft genome assemblies of ST772-MRSA-V from Australia, Malaysia and India. We discovered numerous and redundant resistance genes associated with mobile genetic elements (MGEs) and known core genome mutations that explain the highly antibiotic resistant phenotype of DAR4145. Staphylococcal toxins and superantigens, including the leukotoxin Panton-Valentinin Leukocidin, were predominantly associated with genomic islands and the phage φ-IND772PVL. Some of these mobile resistance and virulence factors were variably present in other strains of the ST772-MRSA-V lineage.
The genomic characteristics presented here emphasize the contribution of MGEs to the emergence of multidrug-resistant and highly virulent strains of community-associated MRSA. Antibiotic resistance was further augmented by chromosomal mutations and redundancy of resistance genes. The complete genome of DAR4145 provides a valuable resource for future investigations into the global dissemination and phylogeography of ST772-MRSA-V.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1599-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4432960  PMID: 25981586
Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; ST772; Antibiotic resistance; Mobile genetic elements; Complete genome; DAR4145; India
6.  Phage-mediated horizontal transfer of a Staphylococcus aureus virulence-associated genomic island 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:9784.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major pathogen of humans and animals. The capacity of S. aureus to adapt to different host species and tissue types is strongly influenced by the acquisition of mobile genetic elements encoding determinants involved in niche adaptation. The genomic islands νSaα and νSaβ are found in almost all S. aureus strains and are characterized by extensive variation in virulence gene content. However the basis for the diversity and the mechanism underlying mobilization of the genomic islands between strains are unexplained. Here, we demonstrated that the genomic island, νSaβ, encoding an array of virulence factors including staphylococcal superantigens, proteases, and leukotoxins, in addition to bacteriocins, was transferrable in vitro to human and animal strains of multiple S. aureus clones via a resident prophage. The transfer of the νSaβ appears to have been accomplished by multiple conversions of transducing phage particles carrying overlapping segments of the νSaβ. Our findings solve a long-standing mystery regarding the diversification and spread of the genomic island νSaβ, highlighting the central role of bacteriophages in the pathogenic evolution of S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC4402969  PMID: 25891795
7.  Differing lifestyles of Staphylococcus epidermidis as revealed through Bayesian clustering of multilocus sequence types 
Staphylococcus epidermidis is part of the normal bacterial flora of human skin and a leading cause of infections associated with indwelling medical devices. Previous phylogenetic analyses of subgenomic data have been unable to distinguish between S. epidermidis strains with nosocomial or commensal lifestyles, despite the identification of specific phenotypes and accessory genes that may contribute to such lifestyles. To attempt to better define the population structure of this species, the international S. epidermidis multilocus sequence typing database was analyzed with the Bayesian clustering programs STRUCTURE and BAPS. A total of six genetic clusters (GCs) were identified. A local population of S. epidermidis from clinical specimens was classified according to these six GCs, and further characterized for antibiotic susceptibilities, biofilm, and various genetic markers. GC5 was abundant and significantly enriched for isolates that were resistant to four classes of antibiotics, high biofilm production, and positive for the virulence markers icaA, IS256, and sesD/bhp, indicating its potential clinical relevance. In contrast, GC2 was rare and contained the only isolates positive for the putative commensal marker, fdh. GC1 and GC6 were abundant but not significantly associated with any of the examined characteristics, except for sesF/aap and GC6. GC3 was rare and identified as a potential genetic sink that received, but did not donate, core genetic material from other GCs. In conclusion, population genetics analyses were essential for identifying clusters of strains that may differ in their adaptation to nosocomial or commensal lifestyles. These results provide a new, population genetics framework for studying S. epidermidis.
PMCID: PMC3883881  PMID: 23816539
Bayesian clustering; population assignment; population structure; Staphylococcus epidermidis; multilocus sequence typing
8.  Molecular Characterization of Streptococcus pneumoniae Serotype 12F Isolates Associated with Rural Community Outbreaks in Alaska 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(5):1402-1407.
Outbreaks of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 12F were observed in two neighboring regions of rural Alaska in 2003 to 2006 and 2006 to 2008. IPD surveillance data from 1986 to 2009 and carriage survey data from 1998 to 2004 and 2008 to 2009 were reviewed to identify patterns of serotype 12F transmission. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis was performed on all available isolates, and selected isolates were characterized by additional genetic subtyping methods. Serotype 12F IPD occurred in two waves in Alaska between 1986 and 2008. While cases of disease occurred nearly every year in Anchorage, in rural regions, 12F IPD occurred with rates 10- to 20-fold higher than those in Anchorage, often with many years between disease peaks and generally caused by a single predominant genetic clone. Carriage occurred predominantly in adults, except early in the rural outbreaks, when most carriage was in persons <18 years old. In rural regions, carriage of 12F disappeared completely after outbreaks. Different 12F clones appear to have been introduced episodically into rural populations, spread widely in young, immunologically naïve populations (leading to outbreaks of IPD lasting 1 to 3 years), and then disappeared rapidly from the population. Larger population centers might have been the reservoir for these clones. This epidemiologic pattern is consistent with a highly virulent, but immunogenic, form of pneumococcus.
PMCID: PMC3647894  PMID: 23408692
9.  Molecular Signatures Identify a Candidate Target of Balancing Selection in an arcD-Like Gene of Staphylococcus epidermidis 
Journal of molecular evolution  2012;75(1-2):43-54.
A comparative population genetics study revealed high levels of nucleotide polymorphism and intermediate-frequency alleles in an arcC gene of Staphylococcus epidermidis, but not in a homologous gene of the more aggressive human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus. Further investigation showed that the arcC genes used in the multilocus sequence typing schemes of these two species were paralogs. Phylogenetic analyses of arcC-containing loci, including the arginine catabolic mobile element, from both species, suggested that these loci had an eventful history involving gene duplications, rearrangements, deletions, and horizontal transfers. The peak signatures in the polymorphic S. epidermidis locus were traced to an arcD-like gene adjacent to arcC; these signatures consisted of unusually elevated Tajima’s D and π/K ratios, which were robust to assumptions about recombination and species divergence time and among the most elevated in the S. epidermidis genome. Amino acid polymorphisms, including one that differed in polarity and hydropathy, were located in the peak signatures and defined two allelic lineages. Recombination events were detected between these allelic lineages and potential donors and recipients of S. epidermidis were identified in each case. By comparison, the orthologous gene of S. aureus showed no unusual signatures. The ArcD-like protein belonged to the unknown ion transporter 3 family and appeared to be unrelated to ArcD from the arginine deiminase pathway. These studies report the first comparative population genetics results for staphylococci and the first statistical evidence for a candidate target of balancing selection in S. epidermidis.
PMCID: PMC3493253  PMID: 23053194
Staphylococcus aureus; Staphylococcus epidermidis; Population genetics; Balancing selection; Genetic hitchhiking; Approximate Bayesian computation
10.  Molecular Fingerprinting of Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Patients with Osteomyelitis in Argentina and Clonal Distribution of the cap5(8) Genes and of Other Selected Virulence Genes 
The molecular fingerprinting of a collection of 94 S. aureus isolates from patients with osteomyelitis in Argentina was performed. Twenty-three SmaI PFGE types and 37 spa types were identified. The isolates were assigned to 23 STs. The proportion of MRSA isolates was significantly higher among cap5 S. aureus (35/61) compared with cap8 S. aureus (8/33) isolates (p=0.0025). Twenty-four of the 94 isolates carried the lukS-PV/lukF-PV genes, which were significantly associated to cap5 [(23/38) compared with cap8 S. aureus isolates (1/32) (p=0.0001)]. Forty of the 94 isolates carried genes of the egc locus (seg/sei). The distribution of seg/sei genes among isolates was related to certain clones. Isolates of the 4 agr types were found in the S. aureus collection. Whereas agr I isolates were evenly distributed among cap5 and cap8 S. aureus isolates (32/61 and 14/33, respectively), the agr II group was composed of 29 cap5 S. aureus isolates and agr III was composed of 16 cap8 S. aureus isolates. Two clones originally associated to animals (ST 188, 7 isolates and ST 1796, 5 isolates) were associated with chronic osteomyelitis and lack of CP production. Loss of CP production remains the single factor among those investigated associated with chronic osteomyelitis.
PMCID: PMC3422409  PMID: 22450741
Staphylococcus aureus; clonal complex; spa type; osteomyelitis; Methicillin- resistance; capsule; agr
11.  Multilocus Sequence Typing and Further Genetic Characterization of the Enigmatic Pathogen, Staphylococcus hominis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66496.
Staphylococcus hominis is a commensal resident of human skin and an opportunistic pathogen. The species is subdivided into two subspecies, S. hominis subsp. hominis and S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus, which are difficult to distinguish. To investigate the evolution and epidemiology of S. hominis, a total of 108 isolates collected from 10 countries over 40 years were characterized by classical phenotypic methods and genetic methods. One nonsynonymous mutation in gyrB, scored with a novel SNP typing assay, had a perfect association with the novobiocin-resistant phenotype. A multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme was developed from six housekeeping gene fragments, and revealed relatively high levels of genetic diversity and a significant impact of recombination on S. hominis population structure. Among the 40 sequence types (STs) identified by MLST, three STs (ST2, ST16 and ST23) were S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus, and they distinguished between isolates from different outbreaks, whereas 37 other STs were S. hominis subsp. hominis, one of which was widely disseminated (ST1). A modified PCR assay was developed to detect the presence of ccrAB4 from the SCCmec genetic element. S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus isolates were oxacillin-resistant and carriers of specific components of SCCmec (mecA class A, ccrAB3, ccrAB4, ccrC), whereas S. hominis subsp. hominis included both oxacillin-sensitive and -resistant isolates and a more diverse array of SCCmec components. Surprisingly, phylogenetic analyses indicated that S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus may be a polyphyletic and, hence, artificial taxon. In summary, these results revealed the genetic diversity of S. hominis, the identities of outbreak-causing clones, and the evolutionary relationships between subspecies and clones. The pathogenic lifestyle attributed to S. hominis subsp. novobiosepticus may have originated on more than one occasion.
PMCID: PMC3679023  PMID: 23776678
12.  Candidate Targets of Balancing Selection in the Genome of Staphylococcus aureus 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2011;29(4):1175-1186.
Signatures of balancing selection can highlight polymorphisms and functions that are important to the long-term fitness of a species. We performed a first genome-wide scan for balancing selection in a bacterial species, Staphylococcus aureus, which is a common cause of serious antimicrobial-resistant infections of humans. Using a sliding window approach, the genomes of 16 strains of S. aureus, including 5 new genome sequences presented here, and 1 outgroup strain of S. epidermidis were scanned for signatures of balancing selection. A total of 195 short windows were investigated based on their extreme values of both Tajima's D (>2.03) and π/K ratios (>0.12) relative to the rest of the genome. To test the unusualness of these windows, an Approximate Bayesian Computation framework was used to select a null demographic model that better accounted for the observed data than did the standard neutral model. A total of 186 windows were demonstrated to be unusual under the null model and, thus, represented candidate loci under balancing selection. These 186 candidate windows were located within 99 candidate genes that were spread across 62 different loci. Nearly all the signal (97.2%) was located within coding sequences; balancing selection on gene regulation apparently occurs through the targeting of global regulators such as agr and gra/aps. The agr locus had some of the strongest signatures of balancing selection, which provides new insight into the causes of diversity at this locus. The list of candidate genes included multiple virulence-associated genes and was significantly enriched for functions in amino acid and inorganic ion transport and metabolism and in defense mechanisms against innate immunity and antimicrobials, highlighting these particular functions as important to the fitness of this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3341823  PMID: 22114360
balancing selection; population genomics; Approximate Bayesian Computation; bacterial evolution; Staphylococcus aureus
13.  Genetic Characterization of Trichomonas vaginalis Isolates by Use of Multilocus Sequence Typing 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(10):3293-3300.
In this study, we introduce a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme, comprised of seven single-copy housekeeping genes, to genetically characterize Trichomonas vaginalis. Sixty-eight historical and recent isolates of T. vaginalis were sampled from the American Type Culture Collection and female patients at area health care facilities, respectively, to assess the usefulness of this typing method. Forty-three polymorphic nucleotide sites, 51 different alleles, and 60 sequence types were distinguished among the 68 isolates, revealing a diverse T. vaginalis population. Moreover, this discriminatory MLST scheme retains the ability to identify epidemiologically linked isolates such as those collected from sexual partners. Population genetic and phylogenetic analyses determined that T. vaginalis population structure is strongly influenced by recombination and is composed of two separate populations that may be nonclonal. MLST is useful for investigating the epidemiology, genetic diversity, and population structure of T. vaginalis.
PMCID: PMC3457461  PMID: 22855512
15.  Population structure of hyperinvasive serotype 12F, clonal complex 218 Streptococcus pneumoniae revealed by multilocus boxB sequence typing 
At least four outbreaks of invasive disease caused by serotype 12F, clonal complex 218 Streptococcus pneumoniae have occurred in the United States over the past two decades. We studied the population structure of this clonal complex using a sample of 203 outbreak and surveillance isolates that were collected over 22 years from 34 US states and eight other countries. Conventional multilocus sequence typing identified five types and distinguished a single outbreak from the others. To improve typing resolution, multilocus boxB sequence typing (MLBT) was developed from 10 variable boxB minisatellite loci. MLBT identified 86 types and distinguished between each of the four outbreaks. Diversity across boxB loci tended to be positively correlated with repeat array size and, overall, best fit the infinite alleles mutation model. Multilocus linkage disequilibrium was strong, but pairwise disequilibrium decreased with the physical distance between loci and was strongest in one large region of the chromosome, indicating recent recombinations. Two major clusters were identified in the sample, and they were differentiated geographically, as western and more easterly US clusters, and temporally, as clusters that predominated before and after the licensure of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. The diversity and linkage disequilibrium within these two clusters also differed, suggesting different population dynamics. MLBT revealed hidden aspects of the population structure of these hyperinvasive pneumococci, and it may provide a useful adjunct tool for outbreak investigations, surveillance, and population genetics studies of other pneumococcal clonal complexes.
PMCID: PMC3230773  PMID: 21888992
Streptococcus pneumoniae; outbreaks; population structure; minisatellites
16.  Cross-species spread of SCCmec IV subtypes in staphylococci 
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 by 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 six 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.
PMCID: PMC3046341  PMID: 21172458
Staphylococcus aureus; Staphylococcus epidermidis; SCCmec; strain typing; horizontal genetic transfer
17.  Staphylococcus aureus CC398: Host Adaptation and Emergence of Methicillin Resistance in Livestock 
mBio  2012;3(1):e00305-11.
Since its discovery in the early 2000s, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clonal complex 398 (CC398) has become a rapidly emerging cause of human infections, most often associated with livestock exposure. We applied whole-genome sequence typing to characterize a diverse collection of CC398 isolates (n = 89), including MRSA and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) from animals and humans spanning 19 countries and four continents. We identified 4,238 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) among the 89 core genomes. Minimal homoplasy (consistency index = 0.9591) was detected among parsimony-informative SNPs, allowing for the generation of a highly accurate phylogenetic reconstruction of the CC398 clonal lineage. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that MSSA from humans formed the most ancestral clades. The most derived lineages were composed predominantly of livestock-associated MRSA possessing three different staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec element (SCCmec) types (IV, V, and VII-like) including nine subtypes. The human-associated isolates from the basal clades carried phages encoding human innate immune modulators that were largely missing among the livestock-associated isolates. Our results strongly suggest that livestock-associated MRSA CC398 originated in humans as MSSA. The lineage appears to have undergone a rapid radiation in conjunction with the jump from humans to livestock, where it subsequently acquired tetracycline and methicillin resistance. Further analyses are required to estimate the number of independent genetic events leading to the methicillin-resistant sublineages, but the diversity of SCCmec subtypes is suggestive of strong and diverse antimicrobial selection associated with food animal production.
Modern food animal production is characterized by densely concentrated animals and routine antibiotic use, which may facilitate the emergence of novel antibiotic-resistant zoonotic pathogens. Our findings strongly support the idea that livestock-associated MRSA CC398 originated as MSSA in humans. The jump of CC398 from humans to livestock was accompanied by the loss of phage-carried human virulence genes, which likely attenuated its zoonotic potential, but it was also accompanied by the acquisition of tetracycline and methicillin resistance. Our findings exemplify a bidirectional zoonotic exchange and underscore the potential public health risks of widespread antibiotic use in food animal production.
PMCID: PMC3280451  PMID: 22354957
18.  Evaluation of Jackknife and Bootstrap for Defining Confidence Intervals for Pairwise Agreement Measures 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19539.
Several research fields frequently deal with the analysis of diverse classification results of the same entities. This should imply an objective detection of overlaps and divergences between the formed clusters. The congruence between classifications can be quantified by clustering agreement measures, including pairwise agreement measures. Several measures have been proposed and the importance of obtaining confidence intervals for the point estimate in the comparison of these measures has been highlighted. A broad range of methods can be used for the estimation of confidence intervals. However, evidence is lacking about what are the appropriate methods for the calculation of confidence intervals for most clustering agreement measures. Here we evaluate the resampling techniques of bootstrap and jackknife for the calculation of the confidence intervals for clustering agreement measures. Contrary to what has been shown for some statistics, simulations showed that the jackknife performs better than the bootstrap at accurately estimating confidence intervals for pairwise agreement measures, especially when the agreement between partitions is low. The coverage of the jackknife confidence interval is robust to changes in cluster number and cluster size distribution.
PMCID: PMC3097183  PMID: 21611165
19.  Identification of a Novel Transposon (Tn6072) and a Truncated Staphylococcal Cassette Chromosome mec Element in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus ST239▿ † 
A novel composite transposon (Tn6072) resembling staphylococcal cassette chromosome mercury (SCCHg) was identified in a collection of sequence type (ST) 239 methicillin (meticillin)-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates from Romanian hospitals. Tn6072 is homologous to the 5′ region of SCCHg found in staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) type III prototype strain 85/2082 but lacks the characteristic mer operon. SCCHg has previously been reported to integrate downstream of orfX, at the same chromosomal location as SCCmec. Tn6072, by contrast, is demarcated by two IS431 elements, flanked by 8-bp direct repeats, and inserted upstream of the origin of replication, within an open reading frame homologous to SAR2700 of S. aureus strain MRSA252. Analysis of a geographically and temporally diverse collection of 111 strains from the ST239 clonal group uncovered 11 additional strains harboring Tn6072, demonstrating a lineage-specific insertion pattern. Complete sequence analysis of the SCCmec regions of two representative Romanian strains (BK16704, BK16691) revealed two additional novel structures derived from a type III SCCmec background. BK16704 possesses an SCCmec 3A.1.4 structure, with an IS256 insertion downstream of the right chromosomal junction. In contrast, the SCCmec element of BK16691 is truncated downstream of the mec gene complex, with a 24-kb deletion encompassing the right chromosomal junction and an inverted downstream IS256 element. This structure, tentatively named “ψSCCmec16691,” confers methicillin resistance but lacks most of the J1/J2 region, including the ccr gene complex. Taken together, these findings provide evidence for the continuing evolution of SCC elements, as well as the ST239 clonal group.
PMCID: PMC2916324  PMID: 20479198
20.  Difference in virulence between Staphylococcus aureus isolates causing gangrenous mastitis versus subclinical mastitis in a dairy sheep flock 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(6):56.
Staphylococcus aureus mastitis in dairy sheep ranges from subclinical mastitis to lethal gangrenous mastitis. Neither the S. aureus virulence factors nor the host-factors or the epidemiological events contributing to the different outcomes are known. In a field study in a dairy sheep farm over 21 months, 16 natural isolates of S. aureus were collected from six subclinical mastitis cases, one lethal gangrenous mastitis case, nasal carriage from eight ewes and one isolate from ambient air in the milking room. A genomic comparison of two strains, one responsible for subclinical mastitis and one for lethal gangrenous mastitis, was performed using multi-strain DNA microarrays. Multiple typing techniques (pulsed-field-gel-electrophoresis, multiple-locus variable-number, single-nucleotide polymorphisms, randomly amplified polymorphic DNA, spa typing and sas typing) were used to characterise the remaining isolates and to follow the persistence of the gangrenous isolate in ewes’ nares. Our results showed that the two strains were genetically closely related and they shared 3 615 identical predicted open reading frames. However, the gangrenous mastitis isolate carried variant versions of several genes (sdrD, clfA-B, sasA, sasB, sasD, sasI and splE) and was missing fibrinogen binding protein B (fnbB) and a prophage. The typing results showed that this gangrenous strain emerged after the initial subclinical mastitis screening, but then persisted in the flock in the nares of four ewes. Although we cannot dismiss the role of host susceptibility in the clinical events in this flock, our data support the hypothesis that S. aureus populations had evolved in the sheep flock and that S. aureus genetic variations could have contributed to enhanced virulence.
PMCID: PMC2733328  PMID: 19576164
subclinical mastitis; gangrenous mastitis; dairy sheep; Staphylococcus aureus; microarray
21.  Polyphyletic Emergence of Linezolid-Resistant Staphylococci in the United States ▿  
Since the year 2000, linezolid has been used in the United States to treat infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant Gram-positive cocci. At present, linezolid-resistant (Linr) Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis strains are rare and the diversity of their genetic backgrounds is unknown. We performed sequence-based strain typing and resistance gene characterization of 46 Linr isolates that were collected from local and national sources between the years 2004 and 2007. Resistance was found to occur in at least three clonal complexes (CCs; lineages) of S. aureus and in at least four subclusters of a predominant, phylogenetically unstable CC of S. epidermidis. New candidate resistance mutations in 23S rRNA and the L4 riboprotein were identified among the S. epidermidis isolates. These findings suggest that linezolid resistance has emerged independently in multiple clones of S. aureus and with a variety of ribosomal mutations in multiple clones of S. epidermidis.
PMCID: PMC2812165  PMID: 19933808
22.  Integrative and Sequence Characteristics of a Novel Genetic Element, ICE6013, in Staphylococcus aureus▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(19):5964-5975.
A survey of chromosomal variation in the ST239 clonal group of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) revealed a novel genetic element, ICE6013. The element is 13,354 bp in length, excluding a 6,551-bp Tn552 insertion. ICE6013 is flanked by 3-bp direct repeats and is demarcated by 8-bp imperfect inverted repeats. The element was present in 6 of 15 genome-sequenced S. aureus strains, and it was detected using genetic markers in 19 of 44 diverse MRSA and methicillin-susceptible strains and in all 111 ST239 strains tested. Low integration site specificity was discerned. Multiple chromosomal copies and the presence of extrachromosomal circular forms of ICE6013 were detected in various strains. The circular forms included 3-bp coupling sequences, located between the 8-bp ends of the element, that corresponded to the 3-bp direct repeats flanking the chromosomal forms. ICE6013 is predicted to encode 15 open reading frames, including an IS30-like DDE transposase in place of a Tyr/Ser recombinase and homologs of gram-positive bacterial conjugation components. Further sequence analyses indicated that ICE6013 is more closely related to ICEBs1 from Bacillus subtilis than to the only other potential integrative conjugative element known from S. aureus, Tn5801. Evidence of recombination between ICE6013 elements is also presented. In summary, ICE6013 is the first member of a new family of active, integrative genetic elements that are widely dispersed within S. aureus strains.
PMCID: PMC2747909  PMID: 19648240
23.  Population Structure of a Hybrid Clonal Group of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, ST239-MRSA-III 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8582.
The methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clonal group known as ST239-MRSA-III is notable for its hybrid origin and for causing sustained hospital epidemics worldwide since the late 1970s. We studied the population structure of this MRSA clonal group using a sample of 111 isolates that were collected over 34 years from 29 countries. Genetic variation was assessed using typing methods and novel ascertainment methods, resulting in approximately 15 kb of sequence from 32 loci for all isolates. A single most parsimonious tree, free of homoplasy, partitioned 28 haplotypes into geographically-associated clades, including prominent European, Asian, and South American clades. The rate of evolution was estimated to be approximately 100× faster than standard estimates for bacteria, and dated the most recent common ancestor of these isolates to the mid-20th century. Associations were discovered between the ST239 phylogeny and the ccrB and dru loci of the methicillin resistance genetic element, SCCmec type III, but not with the accessory components of the element that are targeted by multiplex PCR subtyping tools. In summary, the evolutionary history of ST239 can be characterized by rapid clonal diversification that has left strong evidence of geographic and temporal population structure. SCCmec type III has remained linked to the ST239 chromosome during clonal diversification, but it has undergone homoplasious losses of accessory components. These results provide a population genetics framework for the precise identification of emerging ST239 variants, and invite a re-evaluation of the markers used for subtyping SCCmec.
PMCID: PMC2797301  PMID: 20062529
24.  Genotypic and phenotypic relationships among methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus from three multicentre bacteraemia studies 
At a time when the molecular epidemiology of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was changing, we sought to characterize several genotypic markers and glycopeptide susceptibility features of clinical isolates from patients with bacteraemia.
One hundred and sixty-eight MRSA bloodstream isolates obtained from three multicentre clinical trials were microbiologically and genotypically characterized.
All isolates were susceptible to vancomycin (MIC ≤ 2 mg/L); 38% belonged to accessory gene regulator (agr) group I, 52% belonged to group II and 10% belonged to group III. Typing of the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) showed that 67% were type II and 33% were type IV. The agr group II polymorphism was associated with SCCmec II (P < 0.001). Fifty-three percent of SCCmec II and 27% of SCCmec IV isolates had vancomycin MICs ≥1 mg/L (P = 0.001). One hundred percent of agr II strains were predicted to be members of clonal complex 5. SCCmec II was the genetic marker most predictive of vancomycin MICs of ≥1 mg/L. SCCmec IV isolates were more likely to have vancomycin MICs ≤0.5 mg/L.
Given that SCCmec IV is a marker for a community-based organism for which less prior vancomycin exposure is predicted, we conclude that prior antibiotic exposure in agr group II organisms may account for their increased vancomycin MICs.
PMCID: PMC2667134  PMID: 19261624
MRSA; SCCmec types; clonal types; Staphylococcus spp.
25.  Microbiological and Genotypic Analysis of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Bacteremia▿  
In a recent landmark trial of bacteremia caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) isolates, vancomycin MICs were ≥1 μg/ml for only 16% of the isolates, and accessory gene regulator (agr) function as measured by delta-hemolysin activity was absent or reduced in only 28.1% of the isolates. This clinical study did not capture a population of MRSA isolates predictive of vancomycin treatment failure.
PMCID: PMC2533503  PMID: 18606839

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