In many patient populations there has been a progressive increase in the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). We examined the prevalence and consequences of acquiring MRSA in the adult cystic fibrosis (CF) population at Royal Brompton. Patients who became colonized by MRSA between 1965 and 1997 were identified from an existing database and case-notes were reviewed. Clinical and microbiological data were recorded. Twenty-six patients became colonized with MRSA during this period. Median age at acquisition was 23.4 years (range 11.8-43.3 years) and median FEV1 (percent predicted) was 28.9% (range 12-81%). Twenty patients (77%) had an FEV1 of < or = 40% predicted MRSA was probably acquired by four patients at Royal Brompton. In 17 patients isolates wer first identified whilst under the care of a total of 11 other institutions. Since the first case of MRSA infection in 1982, there has been an increase in prevalence to a current rate of nine cases in the first seven months of 1997. The commonest site of colonization was the lower airway (96%); the nose (23%) and skin sites (15%) were more rarely affected. Duration of colonization was frequently brief with nine cases (35%) lasting less than one month. The identification of MRSA appeared to be of little clinical significance, and did not generally affect outcomes. Only three patients were MRSA positive at the time of death, and in only one of these was MRSA considered a possible contributing factor.