Background: Resistance of Staphylococcus aureus to commonly used antibiotics is linked to their ability to acquire and disseminate antimicrobial-resistant determinants in nature, and the marine environment may serve as a reservoir for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This study determined the antibiotic sensitivity profile of S.aureus isolated from selected beach water and intertidal beach sand in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Methods: Two hundred and forty-nine beach sand and water samples were obtained from 10 beaches from April 2015 to April 2016. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from the samples using standard microbiological methods and subjected to susceptibility testing to 15 antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was detected by susceptibility to oxacillin and growth on Brilliance MRSA II agar. Antibiotic resistance genes including mecA, femA rpoB, blaZ, ermB, ermA, ermC, vanA, vanB, tetK and tetM were screened. Results: Thirty isolates (12.3%) were positive for S. aureus by PCR with over 50% showing phenotypic resistance to methicillin. Resistance of S. aureus to antibiotics varied considerably with the highest resistance recorded to ampicillin and penicillin (96.7%), rifampicin and clindamycin (80%), oxacillin (73.3%) and erythromycin (70%). S.aureus revealed varying susceptibility to imipenem (96.7%), levofloxacin (86.7%), chloramphenicol (83.3%), cefoxitin (76.7%), ciprofloxacin (66.7%), gentamycin (63.3%), tetracycline and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (56.7%), and vancomycin and doxycycline (50%). All 30 (100%) S. aureus isolates showed multiple antibiotic-resistant patterns (resistant to three or more antibiotics). The mecA, femA, rpoB, blaZ, ermB and tetM genes were detected in 5 (22.7%), 16 (53.3%), 11 (45.8%), 16 (55.2%), 15 (71.4%), and 8 (72.7%) isolates respectively; Conclusions: Results from this study indicate that beach water and sand from the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa may be potential reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus which could be transmitted to exposed humans and animals.
Keywords: S. aureus; antibiotic resistance; beaches; multiple-antibiotic resistance.