- rRNA Operon Copy Number Can Explain the Distinct Epidemiology of Hospital-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
- Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
- Volume | Issue number
- 60 | 12
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
The distinct epidemiology of original hospital-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (HA-MRSA) and early community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) is largely unexplained. S. aureus carries either five or six rRNA operon copies. Evidence is provided for a scenario in which MRSA has adapted to the hospital environment by rRNA operon loss (six to five copies) due to antibiotic pressure. Early CA-MRSA, in contrast, results from wild-type methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) that acquired mecA without loss of an rRNA operon. Of the HA-MRSA isolates (n = 77), 67.5% had five rRNA operon copies, compared to 23.2% of the CA-MRSA isolates (n = 69) and 7.7% of MSSA isolates (n = 195) (P < 0.001). In addition, 105 MSSA isolates from cystic fibrosis patients were tested, because these patients are repeatedly treated with antibiotics; 32.4% of these isolates had five rRNA operon copies. For all subsets, a correlation between resistance profile and rRNA copy number was found. Furthermore, we showed that in vitro antibiotic pressure may result in rRNA operon copy loss. We also showed that without antibiotic pressure, S. aureus isolates containing six rRNA copies are more fit than isolates with five copies. We conclude that HA-MRSA and cystic fibrosis isolates most likely have adapted to an environment with high antibiotic pressure by the loss of an rRNA operon copy. This loss has facilitated resistance development, which promoted survival in these niches. However, strain fitness decreased, which explains their lack of success in the community. In contrast, CA-MRSA isolates retained six rRNA operon copies, rendering them fitter and thereby able to survive and spread in the community.
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- Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved. © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. - With supplemental material
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