Staphylococcus aureus from 152 cases of bovine, ovine and caprine mastitis investigated by Multiple-locus variable number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA)
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the main etiological agents of mastitis in ruminants. In the present retrospective study, we evaluated the potential interest of a previously described automated multiple loci Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (VNTR) Assay (MLVA) comprising 16 loci as a first line tool to investigate the population structure of S. aureus from mastitis. We determined the genetic diversity of S. aureus strains from cases of clinical and subclinical mastitis in dairy cattle (n = 118, of which 16 were methicillin-resistant), sheep (n = 18) and goats (n = 16). The 152 strains could be subdivided into 115 MLVA genotypes (including 14 genotypes for the ovine strains and 15 genotypes for the caprine strains). This corresponds to a discriminatory index (D) value of 0.9936. Comparison with published MLVA data obtained using the same protocol applied to strains from diverse human and animal origins revealed a low number (8.5%) of human-related MLVA genotypes among the present collection. Eighteen percent of the S. aureus mastitis collection belonged to clonal complexes apparently not associated with other pathological conditions. Some of them displayed a relatively low level of diversity in agreement with a restricted ecological niche. These findings provide arguments suggesting that specific S. aureus lineages particularly adapted to ruminant mammary glands have emerged and that MLVA is a convenient tool to provide a broad overview of the population, owing to the availability via internet of databases compiling published MLVA genotypes.