OBJECTIVE. To examine the duration of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage and its determinants and the influence of eradication regimens. DESIGN. Retrospective cohort study. SETTING. A 1,033-bed tertiary care university hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in which the prevalence of methicillin resistance among S. aureus isolates is less than 5%. PATIENTS. A total of 116 patients with first-time MRSA detection identified at University Hospital Bern between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2003, were followed up for a mean duration of 16.2 months. RESULTS. Sixty-eight patients (58.6%) cleared colonization, with a median time to clearance of 7.4 months. Independent determinants for shorter carriage duration were the absence of any modifiable risk factor (receipt of antibiotics, use of an indwelling device, or presence of a skin lesion) (hazard ratio [HR], 0.20 [95% confidence interval [CI], 0.09-0.42]), absence of immunosuppressive therapy (HR, 0.49 [95% CI, 0.23-1.02]), and hemodialysis (HR, 0.08 [95% CI, 0.01-0.66]) at the time MRSA was first MRSA detected and the administration of decolonization regimen in the absence of a modifiable risk factor (HR, 2.22 [95% CI, 1.36-3.64]). Failure of decolonization treatment was associated with the presence of risk factors at the time of treatment (P = .01). Intermittent screenings that were negative for MRSA were frequent (26% of patients), occurred early after first detection of MRSA (median, 31.5 days), and were associated with a lower probability of clearing colonization (HR, 0.34 [95% CI, 0.17-0.67]) and an increased risk of MRSA infection during follow-up. CONCLUSIONS. Risk factors for MRSA acquisition should be carefully assessed in all MRSA carriers and should be included in infection control policies, such as the timing of decolonization treatment, the definition of MRSA clearance, and the decision of when to suspend isolation measures.