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Adapting spa typing for national laboratory-based surveillance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

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Laboratory-based surveillance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) monitors the baseline occurrence of different genotypes and identifies strains and transmission chains responsible for outbreaks. The consequences of substituting pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) with spa typing as a first-line typing method were analyzed by typing 589 strains isolated between 1997 and 2006, with a focus on both short- and long-term correspondence between the PFGE and spa typing results. The study, covering these ten years, included all Finnish MRSA blood isolates and representatives of the two most prevalent MRSA strains (PFGE types FIN-4 and FIN-16) in Finland. In addition, all sporadic isolates from 2006 were included. spa typing was more expensive but approximately four times faster to perform than PFGE. Nearly 90% of FIN-4 and FIN-16 isolates showed consistent spa types, t172 and t067, respectively. spa typing predicted the PFGE result of the blood isolates by a Wallace coefficient of 0.9009, recognized internationally successful strains (t041, t067) to be common also in Finland, and identified a separate cluster of isolates, also related in time and place among the FIN-4 strains. Additional typing by another method was needed to provide adequate discrimination or to characterize isolates with a newly recognized spa type in Finland.

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This work was supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

We thank Mari Hyvönen, Saija Perovuo, and Terhi Vesa for their skilled technical assistance. We also thank Tiina Hannunen from the Molecular Medicine Sequencing Laboratory (Biomedicum, Helsinki) for offering information on the time required to perform sequencing. This data was partly presented at the 8th International Meeting on Microbial Epidemiological Markers (IMMEM-8), Zakopane, Poland, May 2008, Poster no. A2.

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Vainio, A., Koskela, S., Virolainen, A. et al. Adapting spa typing for national laboratory-based surveillance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus . Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 30, 789–797 (2011).

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