In total, 177 patients with bloodstream infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus (BSISA) were investigated prospectively between June 1999 and June 2001. Of these, 19.8% had community-acquired BSISA, while 80.2% had nosocomial BSISA. Surgical intervention, foreign body, mechanical ventilation, total parenteral nutrition, and previous antibiotic treatment were found to be important risk factors for the nosocomial BSISA group. Secondary BSISA formed a greater proportion (62.9%) of community-acquired infections than of nosocomial infections (26.8%; p 0.0001). Catheter-related nosocomial BSISA was observed in 72.1% of patients. The suppurative complication rate was significantly higher among community-acquired infections (22.9%) than among nosocomial infections (6.3%; p 0.008). Of the nosocomial BSISA, 65.5% were methicillin-resistant. Analysis of 80 methicillin-resistant S. aureus isolates by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis identified ten main clones (A-J), but 61 (76.3%) of the 80 isolates belonged to clone A.