METHODS: A total of 370 agricultural biotechnology students from Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Besut, Terengganu, were enrolled in this study. Antimicrobial susceptibility profiles were evaluated by standard methods. PCR detection of resistance and virulence genes was performed on S. aureus that were methicillin-resistant, macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B (MLSB )-positive phenotype and/or positive for the leukocidin (pvl) gene followed by staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec), staphylococcal protein A (spa) and accessory gene regulator (agr) typing.
RESULTS: One hundred and nineteen of 370 students carried S. aureus (32%); 18 of the isolates were MRSA (15%). Erythromycin resistance was detected in 20% (24/119) of which 15% (18/119) were MRSA and 5% (6/119) MSSA. Among the 24 erythromycin-resistant isolates, D-test was positive in 29% (7/24) displaying inducible MLSB , whereas the remaining 71% (17/24) showed constitutive MLSB phenotypes. Nine (7.6%) of 119 isolates were pvl positive: 44% MRSA (4/9) and 56% MSSA (5/9). Staphylococcal surface protein sasX gene was present in 92% of MRSA and 8% of MSSA isolates. The majority of MRSA isolates were agr type I (15/18; 83%). Five spa types identified with spa t037 were predominant, followed by spa types (t304 and t8696) as newly reported Malaysian MRSA in a community setting.
CONCLUSION: The presence of MRSA with SCCmec of hospital-associated features and globally recognised spa types in community setting is worrisome. Furthermore, the presence of MLSB strains among multidrug-resistant (MDR) S. aureus with sasX as well as pvl-positive isolates highlights the potential risk of a community setting in facilitating the dissemination of both virulence and resistance determinants.