Staphylococcus argenteus has been recently established as a novel species of Staphylococcus aureus complex. It is known to cause various human diseases, such as skin and soft-tissue infections, sepsis, and staphylococcal food poisoning, although the source of infection has not been clearly described. In food poisoning cases, the source of bacterial contamination in food is unknown. This study examined the prevalence of S. argenteus among retail fresh food and poultry slaughterhouses in Japan. Among 642 food samples examined, successful isolation of S. argenteus was achieved in 21 of 151 (13.9%) chicken samples. No isolations from pork, beef, fish, or vegetables in retail markets were confirmed. Multiple-locus sequence typing revealed that the 21 isolates were classified into four sequence types (ST) that were divided into 14 subtypes using spa-typing. All food isolates were susceptible to methicillin and did not show positivity for the Panton-Valentine leukocidin gene. When bacteria were isolated from two poultry slaughterhouses in the same region, 14 S. argenteus strains were successfully isolated from only one slaughterhouse. Thirteen of 14 strains were isolated from a poultry carcass and slaughterhouse environments during a certain sampling period and were all classified as ST5961 with identical spa-type. Also, the number of single nucleotide variants (SNVs) detected on the core genomes of the same 13 strains were between 0 and 17, suggesting a long-term inhabitation of an S. argenteus strain inside the facility. Furthermore, one isolate from chicken meat was also genetically linked with the same lineage of slaughterhouse isolates, with ≤15 SNVs being detected. Additionally, one slaughterhouse isolate from chiller water and three chicken isolates were classified into the same cluster by phylogenetic analysis, although the number of pairwise SNVs ranged from 62 to 128. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrated S. argenteus in a food processing facility and the possible bacterial contamination on food during food processing.
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