This study aimed to screen for and characterise methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in nasal swabs and milk from healthy cows from different regions in Tunisia.
A total of 141 Staphylococcus spp. isolates were recovered from milk and nasal samples of cows. S. aureus isolates were further characterised by determining their antimicrobial susceptibilities, genes encoding antimicrobial resistance and virulence factors, biofilm production, agr type and PFGE. spa and SCCmec typing and MLST were also performed for the MRSA isolate.
Twenty-seven isolates (19.1%) were identified as S. aureus, of which 26 were MSSA and 1 was MRSA. The MSSA isolates were resistant to penicillin (73.1%), fusidic acid (61.5%), clindamycin (34.6%) and erythromycin (34.6%). The MRSA isolate, from a milk sample, was resistant to cefoxitin, penicillin, fusidic acid, amikacin and clindamycin. Twenty-five isolates (92.6%) had at least one enterotoxin gene. Only four isolates (14.8%) were positive for the tsst-1 gene. Genes encoding the exfoliative toxins D and A were detected in 9 (33.3%) and 6 (22.2%) isolates, respectively. The single MRSA isolate and 22 MSSA isolates were biofilm-producers on Congo red agar plates. Twelve pulsotypes were identified amongst 25 MSSA isolates revealing the clonal diversity of these isolates; however, one MSSA isolate was identified as CC398. The MRSA isolate was PVL-negative and was typed as ST97-t267-agrI-SCCmecV.
Contamination of milk with S. aureus, especially enterotoxin- and TSST-1-positive strains, poses a potential public-health threat. This is the first report of MRSA of bovine origin in Tunisia.