Over the past decade, community-associated meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged in patients without health-care contact, especially in the USA. Although data are limited, the prevalence of community-associated MRSA in Europe seems to be low but is increasing. The organism has been reported in most European countries, including The Netherlands and Nordic countries, which have low rates of health-care-associated MRSA. In Greece, rates of community-associated MRSA in some centres approach those of the USA. By contrast with North America, where the USA300 clone (ST8-IV) predominates, community-associated MRSA in Europe is characterised by clonal heterogeneity. The most common European strain is the European clone (ST80-IV), although reports of USA300 are increasing. Several community-associated MRSA clones have arisen in Europe, most notably the ST398-V pig-associated MRSA clone in The Netherlands and Denmark. An understanding of the epidemiology of community-associated MRSA is essential to guide new control initiatives to prevent these organisms from becoming endemic in Europe. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.