The objectives of this study were to determine the etiology of skin and soft-tissue infections (SSTIs) in a general population, and to describe patient characteristics, SSTI types, frequency of microbiologic testing, and the role of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) over time. Using electronic databases, we identified SSTI episodes and microbiologic testing among members of a large US health plan. Between 2006 and 2009, 648699 SSTI episodes were identified, of which 23% had a specimen, of which 15% were blood. A pathogen was identified in 58% of SSTI cultures. S. aureus was the most common pathogen (80% of positive cultures). Half of S. aureus isolates were MRSA. Among cellulitis and abscess episodes with a positive blood culture, 21% were methicillin-sensitive S. aureus, 16% were MRSA, 21% were beta-hemolytic streptococci and 28% were Gram negative bacteria. Between 1998 and 2009, the percentage of SSTIs for which a culture was obtained increased from 11% to 24%. In SSTI episodes with a culture-confirmed pathogen, MRSA increased from 5% in 1998 to 9% in 2001 to 42% in 2005, decreasing to 37% in 2009. These data can inform the choice of antibiotics for treatment of SSTIs.
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