Genetic Relatedness of Staphylococcus haemolyticus in Gut and Skin of Preterm Neonates and Breast Milk of Their Mothers

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Staphylococcus haemolyticus is a common colonizer and cause of late-onset sepsis (LOS) in preterm neonates. By describing genetic relatedness, we aimed to determine whether mother’s breast milk (BM) is a source of S. haemolyticus colonizing neonatal gut and skin and/or causing LOS.


S. haemolyticus was isolated from stool and skin swabs of 49 BM-fed preterm neonates admitted to neonatal intensive care unit, 20 healthy BM-fed term neonates and BM of mothers once a week and typed by multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Virulence-related genes were determined by PCR.


Compared with term neonates S. haemolyticus colonized more commonly gut (35% vs 89.9%; p<0.001) and skin (50% vs 91.8%; p<0.001) of preterm neonates and mothers’ BM (15% vs 38.8%). Isolates from preterm compared with term neonates and their mothers carried more commonly the mecA gene (83.5% vs 5.4%; p<0.001) and IS256 (52.4% vs 2.7%; p<0.001) and belonged to clonal complex 29 (89.1% vs 63%; p=0.014). Only 7 (14.3%) preterm and 3 (15%) term neonates were colonized in gut or on skin with MLVA-types indistinguishable from those in BM. Most frequent MLVA-types belonged to sequence type 3 or 42, comprised 71.1-78.4% of isolates from preterm neonates/mothers and caused all seven LOS episodes. LOS-causing strain colonized the gut of 4/7 and the skin of 5/7 neonates, but not BM, prior to onset of LOS.


S. haemolyticus colonizing gut and skin or causing LOS in preterm neonates rarely originate from BM, but are mecA-positive strains adapted to hospital environment.

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