Staphylococcus aureus isolates from Eurasian Beavers (Castor fiber) carry a novel phage-borne bicomponent leukocidin related to the Panton-Valentine leukocidin
Staphylococcus aureus can be a harmless coloniser, but it can also cause severe infections in humans, livestock and wildlife. Regarding the latter, only few studies have been performed and knowledge on virulence factors is insufficient. The aim of the present study was to study S. aureus isolates from deceased wild beavers (Castor fiber). Seventeen isolates from eleven beavers, found in Germany and Austria, were investigated. Antimicrobial and biocide susceptibility tests were performed. Isolates were characterised using S. aureus-specific DNA microarrays, spa typing and whole-genome sequencing. From two isolates, prophages were induced by mitomycin C and studied by transmission electron microscopy. Four isolates belonged to clonal complex (CC) 8, CC12, and CC398. Twelve isolates belonged to CC1956 and one isolate was CC49. The CC49 and CC1956 isolates carried distinct lukF/S genes related to the Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) from human isolates of S. aureus. These genes were located on related, but not identical, Siphovirus prophages. The beavers, from which those isolates originated, suffered from abscesses, purulent organ lesions and necrotising pneumonia, i.e., clinical manifestations resembling symptoms of severe PVL-associated disease in humans. It might thus be assumed that the “Beaver Leukocidin (BVL, lukF/S-BV)”-positive strains are beaver-specific pathogens, and further studies on their clinical role as well as on a possible transmissibility to other species, including humans, are warranted.