The aim of this study was to isolate and characterize methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-resistant coagulase-negative Staphylococcus spp. (MRCoNS) from marine water and intertidal beach sand from public beaches in Washington State, USA.
Fifty-one staphylococci from Washington State beaches were characterized using antimicrobial susceptibility testing, carriage of acquired tetracycline and/or macrolide resistance genes, staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) typing, the BBL Crystal Gram-Positive ID System and/or 16S rRNA sequencing, coagulase test and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) for MRSA.
Five multidrug-resistant MRSA SCCmec type I, of which three were MLST type ST45, one ST59 and one a new MLST type, ST1405, plus one susceptible non-typeable (NT) MRSA ST30 were characterized. Thirty-three MRCoNS isolates, representing 21 strains from 9 Staphylococcus spp., carried a range of SCCmec types [I (2), II (6), III (3), V (2), I/II (1) and NT (7)] and varied in their antibiotic susceptibility to other antibiotic classes and carriage of acquired tetracycline/macrolide resistance gene(s). MRSA and MRCoNS donors co-transferred tet(M) and erm(A) genes to an Enterococcus faecalis recipient at a frequency of 10(-8).
This is the first report of MRSA and MRCoNS isolated from marine water and intertidal beach sand. The MLST types and antibiotic carriage of five MRSA isolates were similar to hospital MRSA isolates rather than US community-acquired MRSA isolates. Our results suggest that public marine beaches may be a reservoir for transmission of MRSA to beach visitors as well as an ecosystem for exchange of antibiotic resistance genes among staphylococci and related genera.