Nosocomial infections caused by methicillin-resistant (MRSA) represent an increasing problem in hospitals. Quick and reliable typing methods are required to obtain information about the relatedness of MRSA isolates and to allow faster implementation of appropriate infection control measures. This investigation describes the distribution of MRSA isolates from 11 hospitals in the Düsseldorf region of Germany, and the ability of six different genotypic typing techniques – pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD), 16S–23S rDNA spacer amplification, protein A-gene PCR, PCR characterisation of the hypervariable region (HVR) adjacent to A, and coagulase gene-PCR – to detect different unrelated types. Of 7814 isolates tested, 489 (6.3%) were MRSA, of which 183 were selected for subsequent molecular analyses on the basis of being the first MRSA isolated from colonised or infected patients. Larger hospitals had a higher incidence of MRSA and a greater variability in genotypes than smaller hospitals. All methods confirmed the presence of two main clonal types. The ability of techniques to detect different unrelated types was found to be as follows: PFGE, 28 types; 16S–23S rDNA spacer-amplification, 10 types; RAPD, nine types; protein A-gene PCR, five types; HVR-PCR, five types; and gene-PCR, two types. Combination of PFGE and one other PCR-based method (spacer-amplification, RAPD or protein-A gene PCR) provided the best resolution of types and allowed the identification of subtypes. Similar molecular types were identified with international MRSA isolates. Although PCR-based techniques have the advantage of rapid performance and easy handling, their discriminatory capacity is inferior compared to the more labour intensive PFGE.


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