SpA, ClfA, and FnbA genetic variations lead to Staphaurex test-negative phenotypes in bovine mastitis Staphylococcus aureus isolates

Katrin Stutz, Roger Stephan, Taurai Tasara
Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2011, 49 (2): 638-46
Staphylococcus aureus encodes many proteins that act as virulence factors, leading to a variety of diseases, including mastitis in cows. Among these virulence factors, SpA, ClfA, ClfB, FnbA, and FnbB are important for the ability of S. aureus to adhere to and invade host cells as well as to evade host immune responses. The interaction between these S. aureus surface proteins and human immunoglobulin G and fibrinogen that are coupled to latex particles is utilized to induce latex agglutination reactions, which are used widely in diagnostic kits for confirmation of presumptive S. aureus isolates. In this study, the Staphaurex latex agglutination test was performed on a collection of confirmed bovine mastitis S. aureus isolates. Notably, 54% (43/79 isolates) of these isolates exhibited latex agglutination-negative phenotypes (Staphaurex-negative result). To gain insights into the reasons for the high frequency of Staphaurex-negative bovine mastitis S. aureus isolates, the spa, clfA, clfB, fnbA, and fnbB genes were examined. Specific genetic changes in spa, clfA, and fnbA, as well as a loss of fnbB, which may impair SpA, ClfA, FnbA, and FnbB functions in latex agglutination reactions, were detected in Staphaurex-negative S. aureus isolates. The genetic changes included a premature stop codon in the spa gene, leading to a truncated SpA protein that is unable to participate in S. aureus cell-mediated agglutination of latex particles. In addition, clfA and fnbA genetic polymorphisms were detected that were linked to ClfA and FnbA amino acid changes that may significantly reduce fibrinogen-binding activity. The genetic variations in these S. aureus isolates might also have implications for their bovine mastitis virulence capacity.


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