The widespread use of topical antimicrobials enriches for resistance in Staphylococcus aureus isolated from patients with atopic dermatitis

Catriona Harkins (Lead / Corresponding author), M. A. McAleer, D. Bennett, M. McHugh, O. M. Fleury, K. A. Pettigrew, K. Oravcová, J. Parkhill, Charlotte Proby, Robert Dawe, J. A. Geoghegan, A. D. Irvine, M. T. G. Holden

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Background: Carriage rates of Staphylococcus aureus on affected skin in atopic dermatitis (AD) are approximately 70%. Increasing disease severity during flares and overall disease severity correlate with increased burden of S. aureus. Treatment in AD therefore often targets S. aureus with topical and systemic antimicrobials.

Objectives: To determine whether antimicrobial sensitivities and genetic determinants of resistance differed in S. aureus isolates from the skin of children with AD and healthy child nasal carriers.

Methods: In this case–control study, we compared S. aureus isolates from children with AD (n = 50) attending a hospital dermatology department against nasal carriage isolates from children without skin disease (n = 49) attending a hospital emergency department for noninfective conditions. Using whole genome sequencing we generated a phylogenetic framework for the isolates based on variation in the core genome, then compared antimicrobial resistance phenotypes and genotypes between disease groups. Results: Staphylococcus aureus from cases and controls had on average similar numbers of phenotypic resistances per isolate. Case isolates differed in their resistance patterns, with fusidic acid resistance (Fus R) being significantly more frequent in AD (P = 0·009). The genetic basis of Fus R also differentiated the populations, with chromosomal mutations in fusA predominating in AD (P = 0·049). Analysis revealed that Fus R evolved multiple times and via multiple mechanism in the population. Carriage of plasmid-derived qac genes, which have been associated with reduced susceptibility to antiseptics, was eight times more frequent in AD (P = 0·016).

Conclusions: The results suggest that strong selective pressure drives the emergence and maintenance of specific resistances in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-958
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number4
Early online date5 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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