High Prevalence of EMRSA-15 in Portuguese Public Buses: A Worrisome Finding

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Background: The nosocomial prevalence of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Portugal remains one of highest in Europe and is currently around 50%. Transmission of S. aureus, including MRSA, occurs principally by direct human-to-human skin contact. However, S. aureus can survive for long periods on inanimate objects, which may represent an important reservoir for dissemination as well. Methodology/Principal Findings: Between May 2009 and February 2010, handrails of 85 public urban buses circulating in Oporto, Portugal, were screened for the occurrence of MRSA. Twenty-two (26%) buses showed MRSA contamination. The molecular characterization of a total of 55 MRSA, by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), staphylococcal cassette chromosome (SCC) mec typing, spa typing, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST), clustered the isolates into three clonal types. However, the overwhelming majority (n = 50; 91%) of the isolates belonged to a single clone (PFGE A, spa types t747, t032, t025 or t020, ST22, SCCmec type IVh) that exhibits the characteristics of the pandemic EMRSA-15, currently the major lineage circulating in Portuguese hospitals, namely in the Oporto region. Two additional clones were found but in much lower numbers: (i) PFGE B, ST5, spa type t002, SCCmec IVa (n = 3), and (ii) PFGE C, spa type t008, ST8, SCCmec IVa (n = 2). None of the 55 isolates was PVL positive. Conclusions/Significance: Public buses in Oporto seem to be an important reservoir of MRSA of nosocomial origin, providing evidence that the major hospital-associated MRSA clone in Portugal is escaping from the primary ecological niche of hospitals to the community environment. Infection control measures are urgently warranted to limit the spread of EMRSA-15 to the general population and future studies are required to assess the eventual increase of MRSA in the Portuguese community, which so far remains low.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)e17630
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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