Virulence. 2021 Dec;12(1):951-967. doi: 10.1080/21505594.2021.1899616.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) of the ST1-SCCmecIV lineage has been associated with community-acquired (CA) infections in North America and Australia. In Brazil, multi-drug resistant ST1-SCCmecIV MRSA has emerged in hospital-associated (HA) diseases in Rio de Janeiro. To understand these epidemiological differences, genomic and phylogenetic analyses were performed. In addition, virulence assays were done for representative CA - and HA-MRSA strains. Despite the conservation of the virulence repertoire, some genes were missing in Brazilian ST1-SCCmecIV including lukSF-PV, fnbB, and several superantigen-encoded genes. Additionally, CA-MRSA lost the splDE while HA-MRSA strains conserved the complete operon. Most of these variable genes were located in mobile genetic elements (MGE). However, conservation and maintenance of MGEs were often observed despite the absence of their associated virulence markers. A Bayesian phylogenetic tree revealed the occurrence of more than one entrance of ST1 strains in Rio de Janeiro. The tree shape and chronology allowed us to infer that the hospital-associated ST1-SCCmecIV from Brazil and the community-acquired USA400 from North America are not closely related and that they might have originated from different MSSA strains that independently acquired SCCmecIV cassettes. As expected, representatives of ST1 strains from Brazil showed lower cytotoxicity and a greater ability to survive inside human host cells. We suggest that Brazilian ST1-SCCmecIV strains have adapted to the hospital setting by reducing virulence and gaining the ability to persist and survive inside host cells. Possibly, these evolutionary strategies may balance the biologic cost of retaining multiple antibiotic resistance genes.