Background: Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) is a significant bacterial pathogen that poses considerable clinical and public health challenges. The majority of the CA-MRSA disease burden consists of skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) not associated with significant morbidity; however, CA-MRSA also causes severe, invasive infections resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. The broad range of disease severity may be influenced by bacterial genetic variation.
Results: We sequenced the complete genomes of 36 CA-MRSA clinical isolates from the predominant North American community acquired clonal type USA300 (18 SSTI and 18 severe infection-associated isolates). While all 36 isolates shared remarkable genetic similarity, we found greater overall time-dependent sequence diversity among SSTI isolates. In addition, pathway analysis of non-synonymous variations revealed increased sequence diversity in the putative virulence genes of SSTI isolates.
Conclusions: Here we report the first whole genome survey of diverse clinical isolates of the USA300 lineage and describe the evolution of the pathogen over time within a defined geographic area. The results demonstrate the close relatedness of clinically independent CA-MRSA isolates, which carry implications for understanding CA-MRSA epidemiology and combating its spread.