Background: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains are colonising hospital patients in most areas of England and Wales, UK. The extent to which they cause invasive infection can be gauged from their presence in isolates from blood or cerebrospinal fluid.
Methods: About 200 clinical laboratories reported the results of susceptibility testing of between 4501 and 6370 isolates of S aureus from blood or cerebrospinal fluid in each of the years 1989-95. We assessed the rate of resistance to methicillin and other antibiotics for each of these years.
Findings: Resistance to methicillin was stable at about 1.5% of isolates during 1989-91, but increased thereafter to 13.2% in 1995 (p < 0.001). At the same time there was a significant increase in the percentage of isolates resistant to erythromycin, clindamycin, ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, trimethoprim, and rifampicin (p < 0.001 for each)-resistance characteristics often seen in MRSA. Resistance to benzylpenicillin increased slightly but significantly (p < 0.001); resistance to fusidic acid was stable (p > 0.05); resistance to tetracycline decreased significantly (p < 0.001).
Interpretation: Among cases of S aureus bacteraemia, the proportion due to MRSA has increased significantly. Bacteraemia due to MRSA has a poor prognosis, especially if not treated with suitable antibiotics. Therefore, these findings are important, especially for management of patients and the development of antibiotic policies.