Development of a real-time Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA (SAM-) PCR for routine blood culture

J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Feb;68(2):296-302. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2006.09.003. Epub 2006 Oct 12.


The notification of "Gram-positive cocci, possibly staphylococcus" in a blood culture drawn from a seriously ill patient is responsible for a large amount of vancomycin prescribing in institutions where methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an important cause of bacteraemia. A duplex real-time TaqMan polymerase chain reaction targeting the species-specific nuc gene, and the mecA gene encoding methicillin-resistance, was developed as a tool for rapid identification and detection of S. aureus and methicillin-resistance, and optimised for immediate as-needs testing. Three different DNA extraction methods achieved varying DNA quality, with PCR inhibition the main problem. Serial blood cultures (n=120) identified as possible staphylococci on Gram stain from our clinical laboratory were examined. There was one false negative result for a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis, which was positive on repeat testing, and one false negative result due to DNA extraction failure for MRSA from peritoneal dialysate inoculated into blood culture medium. Sensitivity and specificity of 97% and 100%, respectively, were obtained for mecA; and sensitivity and specificity of 98% and 100%, respectively, for nuc. Detection of slow-growing coagulase-negative staphylococci as co-infecting strains may be reduced. The assay quickly and reliably identified S. aureus in mixed infection, and identified methicillin resistance in both S. epidermidis and S. aureus strains.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Endonucleases / chemistry
  • Endonucleases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Methicillin Resistance*
  • Micrococcal Nuclease / chemistry
  • Micrococcal Nuclease / genetics
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staphylococcal Infections / blood
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / genetics
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / growth & development


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • MecA protein, Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • mecA protein, Staphylococcus aureus
  • nuc protein, staphylococcus
  • Endonucleases
  • Micrococcal Nuclease