Hand and nasal samples of flight-catering staff were collected from 1995 to 1997 to find employees carrying Staphylococcus aureus. Altogether 153 hand samples and 136 nose samples were taken. Nasal sampling showed a higher prevalence of S. aureus among food handlers (29%) than hand sampling (9%). A high proportion of the strains (46%) were enterotoxigenic, and a considerable amount of food handlers carried enterotoxigenic S. aureus, 6% and 12% according to hand and nasal sampling, respectively. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis macrorestriction profiles revealed a total of 32 different types associated with the 35 employees carrying S. aureus. In most cases, the same type colonized both the hand and nose of a person. Despite the wide variety of types found, one strain colonized five persons and the second most common strain was associated with four food handlers. The predominant toxin produced was B, which was produced by the most common strain. The results showed that nasal sampling is a good way to detect S. aureus carriers, whereas hand sampling may fail to reveal carriers. The high proportion of enterotoxigenic strains show that a food handler harboring S. aureus must be considered a potential source of enterotoxigenic strains for airline meals.

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