Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) PFGE strain type USA300 (multilocus sequence type 8, clonal complex 8, staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec type IV) was first reported in the USA as a cause of skin and soft issue infection among college football players in Pennsylvania and among prisoners in Missouri in 2000. Over the next 5 years, USA300 became the predominant community-associated MRSA strain in the USA. It was the most common PFGE type recovered from skin and soft tissue infections in persons presenting to 11 emergency departments across the USA, and caused outbreaks in Native American populations, children in daycare centres, military recruits, prison inmates and among men who have sex with men. Although predominantly a cause of skin and soft issue infection, USA300 isolates also have been recovered from cases of invasive disease including bacteraemia, endocarditis, severe necrotizing pneumonia and osteomyelitis. Isolates of USA300 usually carry the genes encoding the Panton-Valentine leucocidin and the arginine catabolic mobile element, but rarely carry staphylococcal enterotoxin genes. USA300 isolates are becoming more resistant to antimicrobial agents, including erythromycin, levofloxacin, mupirocin and tetracycline, and have spread to Europe, South America and Australia. The emergence of the MRSA USA300 strain type represents a unique biological success story.