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Molecular surveillance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus genomes in hospital unexpectedly reveals discordance between temporal and genetic clustering

      Highlights

      • WGS identified 7 Genetic Clusters of MRSA infections.
      • Genetically-related cases were observed up to 15 weeks apart.
      • Analysis revealed previously unidentified potential hospital source.
      • Hospital-source outbreaks were limited in scope.
      • None of the cases in 4 Temporal Clusters were genetically related.

      Background

      The objective of this study was to identify sources and linkages among methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections using whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

      Methods

      A total of 56 samples were obtained from all patients with a confirmed MRSA infection over 6 months at University of Florida-Health Jacksonville. Samples were cultured and sequenced; data was analyzed on an automated cloud-based platform. Genetic Clusters were defined as <40 single nucleotide polymorphisms. Temporal Clusters were defined as ≥5 MRSA cases over 3 days.

      Results

      We found 7 Genetic Clusters comprising 15 samples. Four Genetic Clusters contained patients with non-overlapping stays (3-10 weeks apart), 3 of which contained patients who shared the same Unit. We also found 5 Temporal Clusters comprising 23 samples, although none of the samples were genetically related.

      Discussion

      Results showed that temporal clustering may be a poor indicator of genetic linkage. Shared epidemiological characteristics between patients in Genetic Clusters may point toward previously unidentified hospital sources. Repeated observation of related strains is also consistent with ongoing MRSA transmission within the surrounding high-risk community.

      Conclusions

      WGS is a valuable tool for hospital infection prevention and control.

      Key Words

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