Asymptomatic carriage of Staphylococcus aureus is a major risk factor for subsequent clinical infection. Diminishing returns from mitigation efforts emphasize the need to better understand colonization, spread, and transmission of this opportunistic pathogen. While contact with other people presents opportunities for pathogen exposure and transmission, diversity of social connections may be protective against pathogens such as the common cold. This study examined whether social relationship resources, including the amount and diversity of social contacts, are associated with S. aureus colonization. Participants were community members (N = 443; 68% Hispanic) in naturally occurring social groups in southwestern Arizona. Four types of social relationships and loneliness were assessed, and samples from the skin, nose and throat were obtained to ascertain S. aureus colonization. Overall S. aureus prevalence was 64.8%. Neither the amount nor the diversity of social contacts were associated with S. aureus colonization. The concurrent validity of the social relationship assessments was supported by their moderate intercorrelations and by their positive association with self-rated health. The results suggest that the association of social network diversity and susceptibility to the common cold does not extend to S. aureus colonization. Conversely, colonization prevalence was not higher among those with more social contacts. The latter pattern suggests that social transmission may be relatively infrequent or that more intimate forms of social interaction may drive transmission and colonization resulting in high community prevalence of S. aureus colonization. These data inform communicable disease control efforts.
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