Molecular typing is an important tool in the investigation of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreaks and in following the evolution of MRSA. The staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) contains a hypervariable region with a variable number of 40 bp repeats named direct repeat units (dru). The dru region has been suggested as a supplementary typing method for MRSA and an international nomenclature exists. The purpose of this study was to investigate the diversity and variability of the dru region in a diverse collection of MRSA. We studied 302 MRSA isolates harbouring SCCmec types I to VI. The isolates represented a broad genetic background based on Staphylococcal protein A (spa) typing and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and included 68 isolates (68 patients) from an outbreak with t024-ST8-IVa and 26 isolates from the same patient. Sequencing identified 53 dru types (dt) in 283 isolates, while eighteen isolates contained no dru repeats and one isolate resisted sequencing. The most common dru type, dt10a, was present in 53% of the sequenced isolates and was found in all SCCmec types, except type II. Seven (10%) of the 68 epidemiologically related patients had isolates with dru type variants indicating that dru typing is not useful as a first line epidemiological typing tool. However, MRSA isolates cultured from a single patient over a three year period exhibited a single dru type. The finding of dt10a in most SCCmec types suggests that dru and mecA originate from the same Staphylococcus species.
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