This report presents the fifth year of nationally consistent information on cases of Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia (SAB) associated with Australian public hospitals. It contributes to ongoing robust national and jurisdictional arrangements to monitor and reduce SAB.

The report presents national information on cases of SAB associated with care provided by public hospitals for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. It also includes summary data for the previous 4 years. The data were provided by state and territory health authorities to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

What is Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia?

SAB is a type of infection often associated with healthcare. It occurs when Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (‘Golden staph’) cause an infection of the bloodstream (bacteraemia). When associated with healthcare procedures, these infections are considered to be potentially preventable. The national definition of a SAB case is outlined in Box 1.

Patients who develop bloodstream infections such as SAB are more likely to suffer complications that result in longer stays in hospital, and the most serious infections can result in death. They also result in potentially unnecessary increases in the cost of hospitalisation.

The bacteria that cause SAB are frequently found on the skin or in the nose of many individuals and are commonly spread from person to person in the community. In this form, they are usually harmless and most people are unaware that they are carrying them.

In hospitals, transmission is most commonly via the hands of healthcare workers. Bacteria from the patient’s skin or from the hand of a healthcare worker can gain direct entry into the patient’s bloodstream if they have open wounds or when intravascular devices, such as central or peripheral venous catheters, are inserted.