uses several strategies to evade the host immune reaction including expression of the genes on the immune evasion cluster (IEC), which target the innate immune response, and tarP, which alters the structure of the bacterial wall teichoic acids to avoid binding of host antibodies. IEC is carried on an ΦSa3 prophage, while the tarP gene is found located on diverse prophages. Livestock-associated methicillin-resistant of clonal complex 398 (LA-MRSA CC398) typically lacks the IEC, but a number of Danish isolates have been found to carry the elements regardless.

In this study, whole-genome sequences of 96 isolates from humans and 45 isolates from pigs from the North Denmark Region were used to establish a maximum-likelihood phylogeny from core-genome SNPs and to investigate the prevalence of IEC and tarP. Furthermore, epidemiological and national surveillance data were used to investigate household transmission and the prevalence of IEC in LA-MRSA CC398 isolates from the general population. The study documents several independent acquisitions of IEC on distinct ΦSa3 prophages in humans and an almost 3-fold higher human-to-human transmission rate of LA-MRSA CC398 in households with strains carrying IEC than in households with strains lacking it. No such effect was found for tarP, which is widespread among LA-MRSA CC398 isolates from both humans and pigs. Moreover, IEC also seems to promote spread of LA-MRSA CC398 in the general population. Thus, LA-MRSA CC398 is capable of re-adapting to the human host by acquisition of human-specific immune evasion factors encoded on mobile genetic elements.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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