The increasing importance of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections

Jason W Agostino, John K Ferguson, Keith Eastwood and Martyn D Kirk
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (9): 388-393. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00089


Objectives: To identify groups at risk of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, patterns of antimicrobial resistance, and the proportion of patients with MRSA infections but no history of recent hospitalisation.

Design, setting and participants: Case series of 39 231 patients with S. aureus isolates from specimens processed by the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) public pathology provider during 2008–2014.

Main outcome measures: Proportion of MRSA infections among people with S. aureus isolates; antimicrobial susceptibility of MRSA isolates; origin of MRSA infections (community- or health care-associated); demographic factors associated with community-associated MRSA infections.

Results: There were 71 736 S. aureus-positive specimens during the study period and MRSA was isolated from 19.3% of first positive specimens. Most patients (56.9%) from whom MRSA was isolated had not been admitted to a public hospital in the past year. Multiple regression identified that patients with community-associated MRSA were more likely to be younger (under 40), Indigenous Australians (odds ratio [OR], 2.6; 95% CI, 2.3–2.8), or a resident of an aged care facility (OR, 4.7; 95% CI, 3.8–5.8). The proportion of MRSA isolates that included the dominant multi-resistant strain (AUS-2/3-like) declined from 29.6% to 3.4% during the study period (P < 0.001), as did the rates of hospital origin MRSA in two of the major hospitals in the region.

Conclusions: The prevalence of MRSA in the HNELHD region decreased during the study period, and was predominantly acquired in the community, particularly by young people, Indigenous Australians, and residents of aged care facilities. While the dominance of the multi-resistant strain decreased, new strategies for controlling infections in the community are needed to reduce the prevalence of non-multi-resistant strains.

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  • Jason W Agostino1
  • John K Ferguson2,3,4
  • Keith Eastwood5
  • Martyn D Kirk6

  • 1 Australian National University Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
  • 2 John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, NSW
  • 3 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
  • 4 NSW Health Pathology, Newcastle, NSW
  • 5 Hunter New England Health, Newcastle, NSW
  • 6 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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