Background: Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile organism, capable of existing as a commensal organism while also possessing pathogenic potential. The emergence of clinically and genetically distinct strains of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), termed community-onset MRSA (CO-MRSA), resulted in an epidemic of invasive and skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) in otherwise healthy individuals without traditional risk factors. Colonization with S. aureus is a risk factor for developing infection and also a source of transmission to close contacts. Outbreaks of S. aureus SSTI have been described in crowded settings and within households. Thus, preventive strategies are essential to interrupt recurrent infections. Objectives: The objective of this narrative review is to provide a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to prevent transmission of CO-MRSA. We highlight key clinical trials that emphasize the importance of household and environmental S. aureus colonization in propagating household transmission. Finally, we highlight research priorities to prevent S. aureus infection. Sources: We cite primary literature from peer-reviewed publications as sources for this review. Content: Our recommended approach to the management of individuals presenting with skin abscesses includes optimal treatment of the initial infection and hygiene education. Decolonization measures should be recommended for individuals with recurrent SSTIs or whose household members have SSTIs. Targeted decolonization with topical antimicrobials should be prescribed to all affected individuals within the household. Implications: S. aureus infections result in substantial mortality and morbidity because of the high incidence of recurrent skin infections. Although current decolonization strategies are beneficial, interventions are often costly to families and effectiveness wanes over time. Results from a recently completed trial evaluating integrated periodic decolonization and household environmental hygiene will further add to our understanding of what constitutes a sustainable decolonization approach. In addition, novel preventive strategies are being developed such as S. aureus vaccines, lytic agents, probiotics, microbiota transplants, and phage therapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Antibiotic
  • Colonization
  • Community
  • Decolonization
  • Household
  • Prevention
  • Skin infection
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Transmission
  • Vaccine


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