Host-specificity of Staphylococcus aureus causing intramammary infections in dairy animals assessed by genotyping and virulence genes

G. Kahila Bar-Gal, S. E. Blum, L. Hadas, R. Ehricht, S. Monecke, G. Leitner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most relevant pathogens causing clinical and subclinical, chronic mastitis in dairy animals. Routinely, mastitis pathogens are isolated and classified to genus or species level, and regarded as single entities. However, S. aureus includes a broad range of genotypes with distinct pathogenic and epidemiologic characteristics. The objective of the present study was to assess the host-specificity of S. aureus causing mastitis in dairy animals, based on phylogenetic and genotypic characterization as well as the presence of virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes in the pathogen genome. S. aureus isolates from mastitis in cows, sheep and goats in Israel, and from cows in Germany, the USA and Italy, were compared by the following methods: a. Bayesian phylogenetic comparison of sequences of genes nuc, coa, lukF and clfA, b. genotyping by spa and agr typing, and assignment to MLST Clonal Complexes (MLST CC), and c. the presence of a broad array of virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes. Overall, phylogenetic, virulence and genotyping approaches agreed with each other. Cow isolates could be differentiated from sheep and goat isolates with all three methods, with different resolution. In two phylogenetic clusters, segregation was found also between cow isolates from Israel and abroad. Sheep and goats' isolates showed less variability than isolates from cows in all methods used. In conclusion, different S. aureus lineages are associated to cows in contrast to goats and sheep, suggesting co-evolution between pathogen and host species. Modern diagnostics approaches should aim to explore molecular data for a better understanding and cost-effective management of mastitis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Dairy animals
  • Genotyping
  • Mastitis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Virulence


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