All authors declare that they have no competing interests.
HL conceived and designed the study, led the analyses and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript. He takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analyses. MH designed and oversaw the study, obtained funding, and significantly contributed to the analyses, interpretation and manuscript. RK, TS and SY contributed to design and coordinated acquisition of data. VR contributed to design, acquisition of data and statistical analyses. IRG and ATF contributed to design and acquisition of data and were medical directors of the study. OG and TH contributed to the design and interpretation, as well as led the laboratory analyses. All authors read, revised and approved the final manuscript.
Nasal carriers of Staphylococcus aureus have an increased risk of acquiring skin and soft tissue infections, which could manifest as outbreaks, especially in crowded settings. Current prevention programs are ineffective, antibiotic resistance is rising and risk factors for becoming a carrier are incompletely understood. We aimed to examine whether a behavior, the neglect of skin wounds, is a risk factor for becoming a Staphylococcus aureus carrier during training.
We conducted a field-based cohort study among male infantry trainees in three seasons in Israel during 2011–12. Participants underwent anterior nares cultures and answered structured questionnaires on potential risk factors on two occasions: before and 3 weeks after start of training (N = 542). Attitudes and practices toward neglect of skin wounds were defined as perseverance in training at all costs, despite having a wound. Samples were processed within 18 hours for identification of Staphylococcus aureus. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to assess risk factors for becoming a carrier.
Carriage prevalence increased by 43.3 % during training, from 33.2 % to 47.6 % (p < 0.01). One-fourth (25.4 %) of those with a negative culture before training became carriers. None of the socio-demographic characteristics was a risk factor for becoming a carrier while the risk was lower in the winter (Odds ratio [OR] = 0.42; 95 % confidence interval [CI]: 0.23-0.78, p < 0.01) and spring (OR = 0.46; 0.26-0.81, p < 0.01) seasons compared to the summer season. Neglect of skin wounds in practice and attitude was a risk factor for becoming a carrier (OR = 2.40; 1.13-5.12, p = 0.02), as well as neglect in practice or attitude (OR = 1.86; 1.04-3.34, p = 0.04) compared to no neglect when controlled for season. The preventable fraction in the population attributed to neglect of skin wounds was 33 %.
Neglect of skin wounds is an independent, common and strong risk factor for becoming a Staphylococcus aureus carrier during training. This preventable behavior should not be ignored and should be addressed in public health programs during training and in other settings. Further research on behavioral determinants of Staphylococcus aureus carriage and infection is warranted.