Analysis of Virulence and Antimicrobial Resistance Gene Carriage in Staphylococcus aureus Infections in Equids Using Whole-Genome Sequencing. Academic Article uri icon


  • While Staphylococcus aureus is associated with significant morbidity and mortality in equids (horses, donkeys, and mules), few studies have performed whole-genome sequencing to fully categorize large collections of equine isolates. Such sequencing allows for a comprehensive analysis of the genetic lineage and relationships of isolates, as well as the virulence genes present in each, which can be important for understanding the epidemiology of strains and their range of infections. Seventy-two clinical Staphylococcus aureus isolates from equids were collected at the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital between 2007 and 2017. Whole-genome sequencing was performed to characterize the isolates according to sequence typing, biofilm association, antimicrobial resistance, and toxin gene carriage. Of the 72 isolates, 19% were methicillin resistant, of which the majority belonged to clonal complex 8. Eighteen distinct sequence types (STs) were represented, with the most common being ST1, ST133, ST8, and ST97. Most isolates had weak or negative overall biofilm production. Toxin and antimicrobial resistance gene carriage was varied; of note, this study revealed that a large proportion of North American equine isolates carry the leucocidin PQ toxin (66% of isolates). One isolate (17-021) carried genes imparting lincosamide and high-level mupirocin resistance, a combination not previously reported in equine-derived S. aureus isolates. IMPORTANCE This is one of the first studies to perform whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of a large collection of Staphylococcus aureus isolates, both methicillin resistant and susceptible, collected from horses. A large proportion of the isolates carry leucocidin PQ (LukPQ), making this one of the first reports of such carriage in the United States. The presence of lincosamide and high-level mupirocin resistance in a methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) isolate highlights the importance of MSSA as a reservoir of important antimicrobial resistance genes. As microbial resistance genes on mobile genetic elements can pass between S. aureus strains and livestock-associated strains can be transferred to humans, these findings have important public health implications.

published proceedings

  • mSphere

altmetric score

  • 2.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Little, S. V., Hillhouse, A. E., Lawhon, S. D., & Bryan, L. K.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Little, Sara V||Hillhouse, Andrew E||Lawhon, Sara D||Bryan, Laura K

editor list (cited editors)

  • Fey, P. D.

publication date

  • August 2021