Staphylococcus aureus can cause severe infections in some individuals, but is also often found in healthy individuals.
The reasons why it causes infections in some individuals and not in others is not well known- and likely due a change in either host immunity or the behaviour of the bacteria.
We have used whole genome sequencing to investigate pathogenesis and transmission.
We took samples from over 1000 individuals in Oxford, and sequenced the genome of Staphylococcus aureus found in nasal swabs over a number of years. We identified a number of genetic changes that happened before developing into a severe infection. These genetic changes can be analysed to help us prevent and treat staphylococus infections.
We have sequenced more than 2000 isolates of S. aureus from patients and healthcare workers in Brighton to investigate patterns of colonisation and transmission. We showed that newly acquired S. aureus on an intensive care unit is rarely be attributable to other patients as sources. This helps support the efficacy of current infection control practice on the unit.
In collaboration with Public Health England and colleagues in the NHS we have used whole genome sequencing to investigate staphylococcus outbreaks in hospitals in various parts of England.
Sequencing also provides information about antibiotic resistance genes. We have developed a tool that allows antibiotic resistance to be predicted directly from the sequence data.