Skin and Soft Tissue Infections in Royal Marine Recruits

Research Paper Title

Staphylococcus aureus colonisation and acquisition of skin and soft tissue infection among Royal Marines recruits: a prospective cohort study.


Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are a serious health issue for military personnel. Of particular importance are those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Panton-Valentine leucocidin (PVL)-positive S. aureus (PVL-SA), as they have been associated with outbreaks of SSTIs. A prospective observational study was conducted in Royal Marine (RM) recruits to investigate the prevalence of PVL-SA carriage and any association with SSTIs.


A total of 1,012 RM recruits were followed through a 32-week training programme, with nose and throat swabs obtained at weeks 1, 6, 15 and 32. S. aureus isolates were characterised by antibiotic susceptibility testing, spa typing, presence of mecA/C and PVL genes. Retrospective review of the clinical notes for SSTI acquisition was conducted.


S. aureus colonisation decreased from Week 1 to Week 32 (41% to 26%, p < 0.0001). Of 1168 S. aureus isolates, three out of 1168 (0.3%) were MRSA and ten out of 1168 (0.9%) PVL-positive (all MSSA) and 169 out of 1168 (14.5%) were resistant to clindamycin. Isolates showed genetic diversity with 238 different spa types associated with 25 multi-locus sequence type (MLST) clonal complexes. SSTIs were seen in 35% (351/989) of recruits with 3 training days lost per recruit. SSTI acquisition rate was reduced amongst persistent carriers (p < 0.0283).


Nose and throat carriage of MRSA and PVL-SA was low among recruits, despite a high incidence of SSTIs being reported, particularly cellulitis. Carriage strains were predominantly MSSA with a marked diversity of genotypes. Persistent nose and/or throat carriage was not associated with SSTI acquisition. Putative person-to-person transmission within troops was identified based on spa typing requiring further research to confirm and explore potential transmission routes.


Jauneikaite, E., Ferguson, T., Mosavie, M., Fallowfield, J.L., Davey, T., Thorpe, N., Allsopp, A., Shaw, A.M., Fudge, D., O’Shea, M.K., Wilson, D., Morgan, M., Pichon, B., Kearns, A.M., Sriskandan, S. & Lamb, L.E. (2020) Staphylococcus aureus colonization and acquisition of skin and soft tissue infection among Royal Marines recruits: a prospective cohort study. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. 26(3), pp.381.e1-381.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2019.07.014. Epub 2019 Jul 26.


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