Six selected strains of Staphylococcus aureus classified as borderline oxacillin-resistant, according to standard disk diffusion and microdilution susceptibility test methods, and seven methicillin-resistant and seven methicillin-susceptible control strains were examined for the presence of penicillin-binding protein 2a (PBP 2a) by fluorography and immunoblotting and for DNA hybridization with a mec-specific probe in a dot blot assay. Oxacillin agar screen tests with and without NaCl supplementation were also performed with all strains. PBP 2a was detected both by fluorography and by immunoblotting in all seven methicillin-resistant control strains and in none of the susceptible controls. PBP 2a was detected in two borderline strains. Results of agar screen tests performed without NaCl supplementation were completely concordant with susceptibility determined by PBP 2a and mec detection methods. Agar screening with NaCl supplementation was less accurate. These findings were confirmed with 20 additional borderline strains. Direct detection methods for the presence of PBP 2a or mec, the gene encoding it, allow accurate and definitive classification of borderline strains. Further efforts to develop a rapid, clinically useful, antibody detection system for PBP 2a are warranted
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