Objectives: The majority of HA-MRSA infections are caused by endogenous infection and by only a small number of clones. The reasons for the success of some clones over others are unknown.
Methods: We investigated the evolution of an MRSA population from a large, acute-care teaching hospital in London, UK over a 10 year period. MRSA incidence and antibiotic prescribing were correlated with changes in resistance genes and prevalence of clonal groups.
Results: Three clones caused the majority of infections, CC30 SCCmecII (EMRSA-16), CC22 SCCmecIV (EMRSA-15) and ST239 SCCmecIII. Clones that were multidrug resistant were selected for, and CC22 became dominant once it acquired a wide range of extra resistance genes. CC22 MRSA was also the fittest clone in an independent growth assay and a competition assay, and had a greater ability to survive desiccation. No individual isolate was fully drug resistant, and there was evidence of substantial horizontal gene transfer (HGT) as well as resistance gene loss within the clonal groups. The exception was fluoroquinolone resistance, which was rarely lost by any of the dominant hospital clones, suggesting that this resistance contributes to selection and survival of HA-MRSA. In support of this, a decrease in hospital-wide ciprofloxacin (a fluoroquinolone) prescribing was strongly associated with an overall decrease in MRSA infection.
Conclusion: Our data suggest successful HA-MRSA clones such as CC22 SCCmecIV are resistant to fluoroquinolones as well as fitter and able to acquire, but not necessarily accumulate, resistance to a wide range of additional antibiotics.