Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the most frequent causes of hospital- and community-associated infections. Resistance to the entire class of β-lactam antibiotics, such as methicillin and penicillin, makes MRSA infections difficult to treat. Hospital-associated MRSA strains are often multi-drug-resistant, leaving only lower efficiency drugs such as vancomycin as treatments options. Like many other S. aureus strains, MRSA strains produce a series of virulence factors, such as toxins and adhesion proteins. Recent findings have shed some new light on the molecular events that underlie MRSA epidemic waves. Newly emerging MRSA clones appear to have acquired phenotypic traits that render them more virulent or able to colonize better, either via mobile genetic elements or via adaptation of gene expression. Acquisition of Panton-Valentine leukocidin genes and increased expression of core genome-encoded toxins are being discussed as potentially contributing to the success of the recently emerged community-associated MRSA strains. However, the molecular factors underlying the spread of hospital- and community-associated MRSA strains are still far from being completely understood, a situation calling for enhanced research efforts in that area.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.