Inferring a population structure for Staphylococcus epidermidis from multilocus sequence typing data

M. Miragaia, J. C. Thomas, I. Couto, M. C. Enright, H. De Lencastre

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184 Citations (Scopus)


Despite its importance as a human pathogen, information on population structure and global epidemiology of Staphylococcus epidermidis is scarce and the relative importance of the mechanisms contributing to clonal diversification is unknown. In this study, we addressed these issues by analyzing a representative collection of S. epidermidis isolates from diverse geographic and clinical origins using multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Additionally, we characterized the mobile element (SCCmec) carrying the genetic determinant of methicillin resistance. The 217 S. epidermidis isolates from our collection were split by MLST into 74 types, suggesting a high level of genetic diversity. Analysis of MLST data using the eBURST algorithm revealed the existence of nine epidemic clonal lineages that were disseminated worldwide. One single clonal lineage (clonal complex 2) comprised 74% of the isolates, whereas the remaining isolates were clustered into 8 minor clonal lineages and 13 singletons. According to our evolutionary model, SCCmec was acquired at least 56 times by S. epidermidis. Although geographic dissemination of S. epidermidis strains and the value of the index of association between the alleles, 0.2898 (P < 0.05), support the clonality of S. epidermidis species, examination of the sequence changes at MLST loci during clonal diversification showed that recombination gives rise to new alleles approximately twice as frequently as point mutations. We suggest that S. epidermidis has a population with an epidemic structure, in which nine clones have emerged upon a recombining background and evolved quickly through frequent transfer of genetic mobile elements, including SCCmec.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2540-2552
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
VolumeVol. 189
Issue numbern.º 6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


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