BACKGROUNDNasal carriage of Staphylococcus aureus is a major risk factor in clinical and community settings due to the range of etiologies caused by the organism. We have identified unique immunological and ultrastructural properties associated with nasal carriage isolates denoting a role for bacterial factors in nasal carriage. However, despite extensive molecular level characterizations by several groups suggesting factors necessary for colonization on nasal epithelium, genetic determinants of nasal carriage are unknown. Herein, we have set a genomic foundation for unraveling the bacterial determinants of nasal carriage in S. aureus.RESULTSMLST analysis revealed no lineage specific differences between carrier and non-carrier strains suggesting a role for mobile genetic elements. We completely sequenced a model carrier isolate (D30) and a model non-carrier strain (930918-3) to identify differential gene content. Comparison revealed the presence of 84 genes unique to the carrier strain and strongly suggests a role for Type VII secretion systems in nasal carriage. These genes, along with a putative pathogenicity island (SaPIBov) present uniquely in the carrier strains are likely important in affecting carriage. Further, PCR-based genotyping of other clinical isolates for a specific subset of these 84 genes raise the possibility of nasal carriage being caused by multiple gene sets.CONCLUSIONOur data suggest that carriage is likely a heterogeneic phenotypic trait and implies a role for nucleotide level polymorphism in carriage. Complete genome level analyses of multiple carriage strains of S. aureus will be important in clarifying molecular determinants of S. aureus nasal carriage.