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Detection and analysis of Staphylococcus aureus isolates found in ambulances in the Chicago metropolitan area

      Background

      Given the frequency with which many different strains of Staphylococcus aureus are found in various prehospital settings, this study sought to characterize S aureus isolates taken from one such environment. The objectives were to determine the frequency of S aureus in front-line, advanced life support (ALS) ambulances throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, and to generate antibiograms (antibiotic resistance profiles) for each S aureus isolate using 8 clinically relevant antibiotics.

      Methods

      Samples were obtained from 26 sites in 71 ambulances from 34 different Chicago-area municipalities. Selected colonies that demonstrated a growth pattern consistent with that of S aureus were subjected to a latex agglutination test specific for S aureus. Antibiograms and genetic analyses were performed on all latex agglutination test–positive isolates.

      Results

      At least one S aureus isolate was found in approximately 69% of all ambulances in the study. Of all isolates detected, 77% showed resistance to at least one antibiotic, and 34% displayed resistance to 2 or more antibiotics. Some level of oxacillin resistance was found in 21% of isolates; however, only slightly more than half of these oxacillin-resistant isolates were found to carry the methicillin-resistant S aureus–specific SCCmec cassette. Some 12% of all isolates were ultimately determined to be methicillin-resistant S aureus, whereas the remaining 88% were methicillin-sensitive S aureus with varying antibiograms.

      Conclusions

      Antibiotic resistance appears to be prevalent in S aureus isolates detected in Chicago area ALS ambulances. Given the ease with which S aureus can survive on inanimate surfaces and exchange antibiotic resistance elements, a conscientious approach to the application of existing cleaning techniques, especially in key ambulance sites, is needed. Future work will include further characterizing isolates using multiple techniques, as well as follow-up studies with interested municipalities.

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