Heterogeneous oxacillin-resistant phenotypes and production of PBP2A by oxacillin-susceptible/mecA-positive MRSA strains from Africa

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Abstract

Objectives

Recent surveillance of MRSA colonizing patients and healthcare workers in two African countries (Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe) reported the frequent recovery of oxacillin-susceptible MRSA (OS-MRSA): Staphylococcus aureus strains that gave positive results with the mecA DNA probe, but had low oxacillin MIC values characteristic of susceptible S. aureus. This apparent dissociation of the drug-resistant phenotype from mecA—the primary genetic determinant of resistance—prompted us to perform a more detailed analysis on nine of the African OS-MRSA strains.

Methods

Oxacillin MIC values were determined by Etest and population analysis profiles with and without induction of the stringent stress response by mupirocin. Biochemical profiling using SDS–PAGE followed by western blotting was used for the detection of PBP2A protein produced.

Results

Cultures of the African MRSA strains (ST88-IVa and ST8-V) showed heterogeneous oxacillin resistance in which the majority of cells exhibited low oxacillin MICs (≤0.75 mg/L), but highly resistant subpopulations were also present with oxacillin MIC values up to several hundred mg/L and with frequencies of 10−4 to 10−6. The same strains after induction of the stringent stress response by mupirocin ‘converted’ the heterogeneous phenotypes into a more homogeneous and higher level resistance. After induction by oxacillin and mupirocin, each of the nine African OS-MRSA strains produced PBP2A—the protein product of mecA.

Conclusions

The resistant phenotype of OS-MRSA resembles the phenotypes of historically early MRSA clones. The nature of genetic determinants responsible for the heterogeneous phenotypes of OS-MRSA remains to be determined.

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