Significant variability exists in the cytotoxicity of global methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus lineages

Maisem Laabei*, Sharon J Peacock, Beth Blane, Sarah L Baines, Benjamin P Howden, Timothy P. Stinear, Ruth C Massey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Staphylococcus aureus is a major human pathogen where the emergence of antibiotic resistant lineages, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), is a major health concern. While some MRSA lineages are restricted to the healthcare setting, the epidemiology of MRSA is changing globally, with the rise of specific lineages causing disease in healthy people in the community. In the past two decades, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) has emerged as a clinically important and virulent pathogen associated with serious skin and soft-tissue infections (SSTI). These infections are primarily cytotoxin driven, leading to the suggestion that hypervirulent lineages/multi-locus sequence types (STs) exist. To examine this, we compared the cytotoxicity of 475 MRSA isolates representing five major MRSA STs (ST22, ST93, ST8, ST239 and ST36) by employing a monocyte-macrophage THP-1 cell line as a surrogate for measuring gross cytotoxicity. We demonstrate that while certain MRSA STs contain highly toxic isolates, there is such variability within lineages to suggest that this aspect of virulence should not be inferred from the genotype of any given isolate. Furthermore, by interrogating the accessory gene regulator (Agr) sequences in this collection we identified several Agr mutations that were associated with reduced cytotoxicity. Interestingly, the majority of isolates that were attenuated in cytotoxin production contained no mutations in the agr locus, indicating a role of other undefined genes in S. aureus toxin regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number001119
Number of pages9
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021

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  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • cytotoxicity
  • bacterial pathogenesis
  • bacterial virulence


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