Outbreaks of Staphylococcus aureus are common in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Usually they are documented for methicillin-resistant strains, while reports involving methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) strains are rare. In this study we report the epidemiological and molecular investigation of an MSSA outbreak in a NICU among preterm neonates. Infection control measures and interventions were commissioned by the Local Public Health Authority and supported by the Robert Koch Institute. To support epidemiological investigations molecular typing was done by spa-typing and Multilocus sequence typing; the relatedness of collected isolates was further elucidated by DNA SmaI-macrorestriction, microarray analysis and bacterial whole genome sequencing. A total of 213 neonates, 123 healthcare workers and 205 neonate parents were analyzed in the period November 2011 to November 2012. The outbreak strain was characterized as a MSSA spa-type t021, able to produce toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 and Enterotoxin A. We identified seventeen neonates (of which two died from toxic shock syndrome), four healthcare workers and three parents putatively involved in the outbreak. Whole-genome sequencing permitted to exclude unrelated cases from the outbreak and to discuss the role of healthcare workers as a reservoir of S. aureus on the NICU. Genome comparisons also indicated the presence of the respective clone on the ward months before the first colonized/infected neonates were detected.
Keywords: Methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus; Neonatal intensive care unit; Outbreak; Toxic shock syndrome toxin-1.
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