Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative and Experimental Medicine

Major Professor

Stephen A. Kania

Committee Members

David A. Bemis, Robert N. Moore, John C. New


Staphylococcus pseudintermedius affecting dogs is analogous to S. aureus on humans, acting as both normal flora and opportunistic pathogen. Methicillin resistance in S. pseudintermedius is recent, with the first documented occurrence of an isolate bearing the methicillin resistance gene, mecA, in 1999. This gene encodes penicillin binding protein 2a, which renders all beta-lactam drugs ineffective and functions as a “gateway” antibiotic resistance determinant. In the presence of ineffective antibiotics, opportunities for mutational events and acquisition of mobile genetic elements increase as microbial densities increase, often leading to multi-drug resistance. Methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius (MRSP) infections have become increasingly common. For example, approximately 30% of the S. pseudintermedius isolates tested by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Clinical Bacteriology Laboratory are resistant to methicillin. An increasing number of MRSP isolates are also resistant to most clinically useful antibiotics available to veterinarians except for chloramphenicol, and resistance to this antibiotic is common among European MRSP isolates. Chloramphenicol resistance has begun to appear in the US and if this trend continues there may soon be few viable antibiotic treatment options.

Compared with the arrival of methicillin-resistant S. aureus in the 1960s, the opportunity currently exists to apply advanced molecular methods early in this recognized emergence of MRSP. To that end I have pursued projects utilizing multilocus sequence typing, pulsed-field electrophoresis, and SCCmec characterization of both susceptible and resistant S. pseudintermedius. The initial result was the detection of a clonal population of MRSP in the southeastern United States. Further characterization of this and other clonal lineages using genomic sequencing and real-time RT-PCR expression analysis of antibiotic resistance and quorum sensing genes revealed a marked difference in the regulation of antibiotic resistance between regional clones. These discoveries have interesting epidemiological implications and provide a foundation for the development of novel therapeutics to circumvent the expanding antibiotic resistance repertoire of MRSP. Potential targets identified by this work include membrane-bound beta-lactamase receptors responsible for the regulation of mecA, non-cognate auto-inducing peptides, and synthetic antisense oligonucleotides.

Chad Black Dissertation - 15 July 2010.pdf (1758 kB)
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