Clinical laboratories are increasingly using molecular tests for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) screening. However, primers have to be targeted to a variable chromosomal region, the staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec). We initially screened 726 MRSA isolates from a single UK hospital trust by recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA), a novel, isothermal alternative to PCR. Undetected isolates were further characterised using multilocus sequence, spa typing and whole genome sequencing. 96% of our tested phenotypically MRSA isolates contained one of the six orfX-SCCmec junctions our RPA test and commercially available molecular tests target. However 30 isolates could not be detected. Sequencing of 24 of these isolates demonstrated recombinations within the SCCmec element with novel insertions that interfered with the RPA, preventing identification as MRSA. This result suggests that clinical laboratories cannot rely solely upon molecular assays to reliably detect all methicillin-resistance. The presence of significant recombinations in the SCCmec element, where the majority of assays target their primers, suggests that there will continue to be isolates that escape identification. We caution that dependence on amplification-based molecular assays will continue to result in failure to diagnose a small proportion (?4%) of MRSA isolates, unless the true level of SCCmec natural diversity is determined by whole genome sequencing of a large collection of MRSA isolates. © 2014 Hill-Cawthorne et al.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Medicine