Four thousand eighty-eight Staphylococcus aureus isolates obtained from patients hospitalised in a university clinic and four community hospitals over a period of one year were screened for methicillin resistance. A resistance rate of 5% was detected among initial isolates. Distribution of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus showed an increased prevalence of MRSA in clinically significant specimens such as blood, central venous catheter tips, bronchial secretions, and wound secretions. Typing of 110 MRSA strains (initial isolates) by macrorestriction analysis of chromosomal DNA revealed 26 different genotypes that could be divided into five epidemic and 21 sporadic strains. More than 50% of all isolates belonged to one type that was confirmed to be closely related to the "southern-German" epidemic strain. Production of virulence factors such as enterotoxin A-D and toxic shock syndrome-toxin 1 among MRSA strains (initial isolates) occurred in ten of 26 different MRSA types. A strong correlation between genotype and toxin production was demonstrated.