How do superbug infections move from patient to patient inside a hospital? A team of researchers in the U.K. have shown how transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus occurs, with an eye on how to stop it in its tracks, according to new research published in the journal Science. The team used cutting-edge DNA sequencing technologies to compare individual isolated MRSA strains among groups of patients and show genetic relatedness.
For instance, researchers took samples from 20 patients at a single hospital in northeast Thailand who developed MRSA infections within seven months of one another. They looked at the details of single-letter genetic changes in the samples, and found five that were very similar. Turns out, the group of five related MRSA strains caused infections in patients residing in adjacent intensive-care units at the hospital. Bacteria from patients housed in other parts of the hospital were far less similar.
“This cemented our theory that there were two different groups of isolates that had been introduced to the hospital separately,” says Ed Feil, co-lead author on the study and researcher at the University of Bath biology and biochemistry department.
The team was also able to find the rate of MRSA mutation. The team has analyzed samples collected over 20 years from Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America.
Being able to track the spread of MRSA would be very helpful for hospitals and public health officials to target interventions and treatments with more precision, the researchers concluded.