A prevalence survey of nasal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage was undertaken on a random sample of adults (aged over 16) resident in the community in Birmingham, UK during 1998. Microbiological samples were taken from the anterior nares at the subjects' general practice or in their home. Information about risk factors for the acquisition of MRSA was obtained via a self-completed questionnaire. A 58% response rate (280/483) was achieved. The prevalence of nasal MRSA colonization was 1.5% [4/274, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.03-2.9%]. Twenty-three per cent (63/274) of subjects were nasal carriers of S. aureus. Six per cent (4/63) of S. aureus isolates were MRSA and 2 of the 4 MRSA carriers reported previous contact with health facilities. The prevalence of MRSA colonization in the general adult population in Birmingham appears to be low.