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Emergence of Virulent Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Strains Carrying Panton-Valentine Leucocidin Genes in The Netherlands

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Epidemiology
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains carrying the Panton-Valentine leucocidin (PVL) genes have been reported worldwide and are a serious threat to public health. The PVL genes encode a highly potent toxin which is involved in severe skin infections and necrotizing pneumonia, even in previously healthy individuals. We assessed the prevalence of PVL-positive MRSA in The Netherlands for two periods of time: (i) 1987 through 1995 and (ii) 2000 and 2002, and determined their characteristics by using multilocus sequence typing and staphylococcal chromosome cassette (SCCmec) typing. It was found that up to 15% of all MRSA isolates detected in The Netherlands harbored the PVL genes. Most PVL-positive MRSA isolates were obtained from severe soft tissue infections in relatively young individuals. The first PVL-positive MRSA described in The Netherlands, isolated in 1988, was a single-locus variant of the “Berlin” epidemic MRSA clone. The 20 PVL-positive MRSA isolates studied in 2000 and 2002 consisted of five different sequence types (STs) that belonged to four clonal complexes. One of the STs, ST80, is considered to be a widespread European clone and was the most predominant ST (60%) in this study, while ST37 had never been found to be associated with PVL-positive MRSA. Most isolates harbored SCCmec type IV, a supposed marker for community-acquired MRSA. The number and type of virulence-associated genes varied among the different STs.

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