The incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) pneumonia in otherwise healthy individuals is increasing. To investigate the mechanism underlying the epidemiological success of predominant community-associated (CA)-MRSA strains, we examined their fitness traits during the initial interaction between bacteria and the host occurring in the lower airway. Using a mouse respiratory infection model, we show that clinical isolates often responsible for CA infections are highly resistant to clearance from healthy airways, whereas S. aureus strains not as prevalent or traditionally associated with hospital-associated infections are relatively susceptible. Mechanistically, the competitive fitness of S. aureus is a result of both agr-dependent and-independent resistance to innate bacterial killing. Furthermore, we show that rather than evasion from neutrophil-dependent bactericidal process, the observed S. aureus fitness in the lower airways is due to its intrinsic resistance to resident alveolar macrophage-mediated intracellular killing. Importantly, we demonstrate that the virulence determinants responsible for bacterial persistence in immune-competent mice are dispensable in mice with predisposing conditions such as influenza infection. Taken together, these novel findings of the improved competence of predominant CA-MRSA strains to survive innate killing in healthy hosts, particularly at the very beginning stage of infection, provide a unique insight into their epidemiological success.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy