High prevalence of hospital-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the community in Portugal: evidence for the blurring of community-hospital boundaries

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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a leading cause of infection in the community (CA-MRSA), but in spite of its relevance, no data exist concerning its epidemiology in Portugal. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the prevalence, population structure, and origin of MRSA in the Portuguese community. A total of 527 isolates, both methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) and MRSA, were collected from individuals with no healthcare-related risk factors attending 16 healthcare institutions in Portugal. Isolates were characterized for the presence of mecA, Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), and arginine catabolic mobile element (ACME), and by staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) typing, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), spa, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Susceptibility to a panel of 13 antibiotics was tested. Isolates relatedness was analyzed by goeBURST and BURP. We found a high frequency (21.6 %) of MRSA in the community. However, only 11.4 % of the isolates belonged to typical CA-MRSA epidemic clones (USA300, USA400, USA700, Southwest Pacific, European, and ST398). The remaining isolates, which constituted the great majority (88.6 %), belonged to hospital-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) epidemic clones, namely, to the EMRSA-15 clone (77.2 %). PVL was rare and carried by 17 isolates only (five MRSA and 12 MSSA). In the whole collection, some MRSA and MSSA were highly related. The high frequency of MRSA in the community in Portugal seems to result mainly from dissemination from the hospital. They might also have emerged from an extant MSSA population, by SCCmec acquisition, or MRSA clonal introduction from abroad.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)1269-1283
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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