Nosocomial transmission of pathogens is a major health care challenge. The increasing spread of antibiotic-resistant strains represents an ongoing threat to public health. Previous Staphylococcus aureus transmission studies have focused on transmission of S. aureus between asymptomatic carriers or used low-resolution typing methods such as multilocus sequence typing (MLST) or spa typing. To identify patient-to-patient intrahospital transmission using high-resolution genetic analysis, we sequenced the genomes of a consecutive set of 398 S. aureus isolates from sterile-site infections. The S. aureus strains were collected from four hospitals in the Houston Methodist Hospital System over a 6-month period. Importantly, we discovered no evidence of transmission of S. aureus between patients with sterile-site infections. The lack of intrahospital transmission may reflect a fundamental difference between day-to-day transmission events in the hospital setting and the more frequently studied outbreak scenarios.
IMPORTANCE: Previous studies have suggested that nosocomial transmission of S. aureus is common. Our data revealed an unexpected lack of evidence for intrahospital transmission of S. aureus between patients with invasive infections. This finding has important implications for hospital infection control and public health efforts. In addition, our data demonstrate that highly related pools of S. aureus strains exist in the community which may complicate outbreak investigations.
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