Phenotypic characteristics of incident and chronic MRSA isolates in cystic fibrosis

Deirdre Gilpin, Lucas R Hoffman, Agathe Ceppe, Marianne S Muhlebach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in CF is associated with worse outcomes compared to early or intermittent infection. This observation could be related to adaptive bacterial changes such as biofilm formation or anaerobic growth. 

Methods: MRSA isolates stored from incident and during chronic (>2 years) infection were included at two study sites. MRSA isolates were characterised by spa-typing, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, biofilm formation and haemolysis under aerobic and anaerobic culture conditions. 

Results: Paired MRSA isolates from 49 patients were included. Mean age at incident infection was 9.7±1.2 years with mild to moderate lung disease (FEV 74±4% predicted). Twenty-five subjects showed progression of disease/symptoms after onset of MRSA with significantly increased use of antibiotics. Most isolates belonged to t002 (38%) and t008 (36%) spa-types and 8 patients had a change in spa-type over time. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing showed few differences between incident and late isolates but significantly lower MIC under anaerobic vs. aerobic conditions for vancomycin, fusidic acid, rifampin but higher MIC for trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Biofilm formation and haemolysis did not differ by stage of infection or disease course but both were lower under anaerobic conditions (biofilm p=0.018; haemolysis p=0.002) in multi-variate analyses that included study site, growth condition and stage of infection. 

Conclusions: Persistent MRSA infection is frequently associated with clinical decline. Anaerobic growth conditions, which occur in CF airways, affect the expression of virulence factors and antibiotic susceptibility of MRSA more than duration of infection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of cystic fibrosis : official journal of the European Cystic Fibrosis Society
Early online date06 Jun 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 06 Jun 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Anaerobe
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Haemolysis
  • Outcome
  • Staphylococcus aureus


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