Tel.+49 30 83 8-518 40/518 43 Fax.+49 30 838 45 18 51
Population-based studies on Staphylococcus aureus nasal colonization are scarce. We examined the prevalence, resistance, and molecular diversity of S. aureus in the general population in Northeast Germany. Nasal swabs were obtained from 3,891 adults in the large-scale population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP-TREND). Isolates were characterized using spa genotyping, as well as antibiotic resistance and virulence gene profiling. We observed an S. aureus prevalence of 27.2%. Nasal S. aureus carriage was associated with male sex and inversely correlated with age. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) accounted for 0.95% of the colonizing S. aureus strains. MRSA carriage was associated with frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes, or retirement homes within the previous 24 months. All MRSA strains were resistant to multiple antibiotics. Most MRSA isolates belonged to the pandemic European hospital-acquired MRSA sequence type 22 (HA-MRSA-ST22) lineage. We also detected one livestock-associated MRSA ST398 (LA-MRSA-ST398) isolate, as well as six livestock-associated methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (LA-MSSA) isolates (clonal complex 1 [CC1], CC97, and CC398). spa typing revealed a diverse but also highly clonal S. aureus population structure. We identified a total of 357 spa types, which were grouped into 30 CCs or sequence types. The major seven CCs (CC30, CC45, CC15, CC8, CC7, CC22, and CC25) included 75% of all isolates. Virulence gene patterns were strongly linked to the clonal background. In conclusion, MSSA and MRSA prevalences and the molecular diversity of S. aureus in Northeast Germany are consistent with those of other European countries. The detection of HA-MRSA and LA-MRSA within the general population indicates possible transmission from hospitals and livestock, respectively, and should be closely monitored.