Global distribution and diversity of ovine-associated Staphylococcus aureus

Edward M. Smith, Polly F. Needs, Grace Manley, Laura E. Green

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30 Citations (Scopus)
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Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen of many species, including sheep, and impacts on both human and animal health, animal welfare, and farm productivity. Here we present the widest global diversity study of ovine-associated S. aureus to date. We analysed 97 S. aureus isolates from sheep and sheep products from the UK, Turkey, France, Norway, Australia, Canada and the USA using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and spa typing. These were compared with 196 sheep isolates from Europe (n = 153), Africa (n = 28), South America (n = 14) and Australia (n = 1); 172 bovine, 68 caprine and 433 human S. aureus profiles. Overall there were 59 STs and 87 spa types in the 293 ovine isolates; in the 97 new ovine isolates there were 22 STs and 37 spa types, including three novel MLST alleles, four novel STs and eight novel spa types. Three main CCs (CC133, CC522 and CC700) were detected in sheep and these contained 61% of all isolates. Four spa types (t002, t1534, t2678 and t3576) contained 31% of all isolates and were associated with CC5, CC522, CC133 and CC522 respectively. spa types were consistent with MLST CCs, only one spa type (t1403) was present in multiple CCs. The three main ovine CCs have different but overlapping patterns of geographical dissemination that appear to match the location and timing of sheep domestication and selection for meat and wool production. CC133, CC522 and CC700 remained ovine-associated following the inclusion of additional host species. Ovine isolates clustered separately from human and bovine isolates and those from sheep cheeses, but closely with caprine isolates. As with cattle isolates, patterns of clonal diversification of sheep isolates differ from humans, indicative of their relatively recent host-jump.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-215
Number of pages8
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Volume 22
Early online date12 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • S. aureus
  • Ovine
  • Caprine
  • MLST
  • spa typing
  • Global diversity


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