Clin Microbiol Infect 2010; 16: 456–462
The usefulness of spa typing was evaluated in relation to pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), as a tool for epidemiological typing of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a low-prevalence region in southern Sweden. Bacterial isolates from 216 MRSA cases, newly identified in 2000–2004, were studied. The isolates were obtained from infected patients (31%), and from colonized individuals found by screening (69%). In total, 49 spa types and 73 PFGE patterns were identified. The discriminatory power of spa typing was lower (94.9 ± 1.8%) than that of PFGE (97.3 ± 1.2%). For two spa types (t002 and t008) the Panton–Valentine leukocidin results added useful discriminatory information. The most common spa types were t044 (n = 31; four PFGE patterns), t002 (n = 24; 10 PFGE patterns), t067 (n = 12; four PFGE patterns), t050 (n = 12; one PFGE pattern), and t324 (n = 11; one PFGE pattern). Epidemiological investigations identified 91 single cases and 39 transmission chains, each involving two to 13 cases. All the transmission chains were held together both by spa and PFGE typing. Among the 91 single-case isolates, 33 spa types and 50 PFGE patterns were unique (matchless) at the time of identification. The low prevalence of MRSA, the low number of outbreaks, and the wide spectrum of strains due to frequent acquisitions abroad (49% of the cases), makes spa typing a useful complement to epidemiological investigations in our setting. However, we still recommend the continued use of PFGE for further discrimination of isolates with identical spa types when epidemiological data can not exclude possible transmission.