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Virulence determinants associated with the Asian community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus lineage ST59.


Understanding virulence is vital for the development of novel therapeutics to target infections with community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), which cause an ongoing epidemic in the United States and are on a global rise. However, what defines virulence particularly of global CA-MRSA lineages is poorly understood. Threatening a vast population, the predominant Asian CA-MRSA lineage ST59 is of major epidemiological importance. However, there have been no molecular analyses using defined virulence gene deletion mutants in that lineage as of yet. Here, we compared virulence in skin, lung, and blood infection models of ST59 CA-MRSA isolates with geographically matched hospital-associated MRSA isolates. We selected a representative ST59 CA-MRSA isolate based on toxin expression and virulence characteristics, and produced isogenic gene deletion mutants of important CA-MRSA virulence determinants (α-toxin, PSM α, Agr) in that isolate for in-vitro and in-vivo analyses. Our results demonstrate strongly enhanced virulence of ST59 CA-MRSA over hospital-associated lineages, supporting the notion that enhanced virulence is characteristic for CA-MRSA. Furthermore, they show strong and significant contribution of Agr, α-toxin, and PSMα to pathogenesis of ST59 CA-MRSA skin, lung, and blood infection, emphasizing the value of drug development efforts targeted toward those virulence determinants.