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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Molecular Characterization of Chimeric Staphylococcus aureus Strains from Waterfowl

Monecke, Stefan; Braun, Sascha D.; Collatz, Maximillian; Diezel, Celia; Mueller, Elke; Reinicke, Martin; Rosel, Adriana Cabal; Fessler, Andrea T.; Hanke, Dennis; Loncaric, Igor; Schwarz, Stefan; de Jaeckel, Sonia Cortez; Ruppitsch, Werner; Gavier-Widen, Dolores; Hotzel, Helmut; Ehricht, Ralf


Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile pathogen that does not only occur in humans but also in various wild and domestic animals, including several avian species. When characterizing S. aureus isolates from waterfowl, isolates were identified as atypical CC133 by DNA microarray analysis. They differed from previously sequenced CC133 strains in the presence of the collagen adhesin gene cna; some also showed a different capsule type and a deviant spa type. Thus, they were subjected to whole-genome sequencing. This revealed multiple insertions of large regions of DNA from other S. aureus lineages into a CC133-derived backbone genome. Three distinct strains were identified based on the size and extent of these inserts. One strain comprised two small inserts of foreign DNA up- and downstream of oriC; one of about 7000 nt or 0.25% originated from CC692 and the other, at ca. 38,000 nt or 1.3% slightly larger one was of CC522 provenance. The second strain carried a larger CC692 insert (nearly 257,000 nt or 10% of the strain's genome), and its CC522-derived insert was also larger, at about 53,500 nt or 2% of the genome). The third strain carried an identical CC692-derived region (in which the same mutations were observed as in the second strain), but it had a considerably larger CC522-like insertion of about 167,000 nt or 5.9% of the genome. Both isolates of the first, and two out of four isolates of the second strain also harbored a hemolysin-beta-integrating prophage carrying "bird-specific" virulence factors, ornithine cyclodeaminase D0K6J8 and a putative protease D0K6J9. Furthermore, isolates had two different variants of SCC elements that lacked mecA/mecC genes. These findings highlight the role of horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of S. aureus facilitated by SCC elements, by phages, and by a yet undescribed mechanism for large-scale exchange of core genomic DNA.


Staphylococcus aureus; clonal complex 133; clonal complex 522; clonal complex 692; next generation sequencing; bacteriophages; chimerism; horizontal gene transfer; pathogens in waterfowl; One Health

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2024, Volume: 12, number: 1, article number: 96
Publisher: MDPI

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