Objectives: To determine the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization in an outpatient population and to identify risk factors for MRSA colonization.
Design: Surveillance cultures were performed during outpatient visits to identify S. aureus colonization. A case-control study was performed to identify risk factors for MRSA colonization.
Setting: Primary care internal medicine clinic.
Patients: Adults presenting for non-acute primary care (N = 494).
Results: S. aureus was isolated from 122 (24.7%) of the patients for whom cultures were performed. Methicillin-susceptible S. aureus was isolated from 107 (21.7%) of the patients, whereas MRSA was isolated from 15 (3.0%) of the patients. All MRSA isolates were resistant to multiple non-beta-lactam antimicrobial agents. In multivariate analyses, MRSA colonization was independently associated with admission to a nursing home (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 103; 95% confidence interval [CI95], 7 to 999) or hospital in the previous year, although the association with hospital admission was observed only among those without chronic illness (adjusted OR, 7.1; CI95, 1.3 to 38.1). In addition, MRSA colonization was associated with the presence of at least one underlying chronic illness, although this association was observed only among those who had not been hospitalized in the previous year (adjusted OR, 5.1; CI95, 1.2 to 21.9).
Conclusions: We found a low prevalence of MRSA colonization in an adult outpatient population. MRSA carriers most likely acquired the organism through contact with healthcare facilities rather than in the community. These data show that care must be taken when attributing MRSA colonization to the community if detected in outpatients or during the first 24 to 48 hours of hospitalization.