An outbreak of nosocomial infections was caused by a single strain of methicillin-resistant (MR) Staphylococcus aureus. This strain was followed as it was transmitted from the index case to 17 patients, 3 hospital personnel, and 12 items in the hospital environment. The MR S. aureus strain was traced by using four specific epidemiological markers: antibiogram, phage type, production of aminoglycoside-inactivating enzymes, and plasmid pattern. These markers were assessed for their reliability in differentiating the epidemic S. aureus strain from resident nonepidemic strains and for the ease and rapidity with which they determined differences. The epidemic strain was resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics, gentamicin, erythromycin, clindamycin, and rifampin. Resistance to rifampin was the only unique marker in the antibiogram which distinguished the epidemic strain from the indigenous strains, and it was the easiest marker to use for screening isolates from culture surveys. Phage typing was poorly reproducible and did not yield results rapidly enough to be useful for ongoing epidemiology. The epidemic strain produced a unique aminoglycoside-inactivating enzyme (3'-phosphotransferase) which distinguished it from indigenous gentamicin-resistant staphylococci, but this marker was not easily identified, nor was identification helpful during the course of the investigation. Plasmid pattern analysis was rapidly performed (in less than 24 hr), allowed many isolates to be examined at a time, was stable and reproducible, and yielded a unique fingerprint which distinguished the epidemic strain from all indigenous isolates. Plasmid pattern analysis is a promising epidemiological tool for MR S. aureus outbreaks in which epidemic strains lack unique antibiotic resistance markers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)