A total of 570 Staphylococcus spp. blood isolates collected in Finland in 1991 were tested for susceptiblity to oxacillin and 19 additional antimicrobial agents. The Staphylococcus epidermidis isolates were also analyzed for the presence of the mecA gene by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of the 238 S. epidermidis, 137 (58%) were in vitro identified as methicillin-resistant and 5 (2%) exhibited oxacillin MICs between 1 and 3 micrograms/ml. All these isolates were positive for the mecA gene in PCR as an indication of genetic resistance to methicillin, while none of the remaining 96 S. epidermidis isolates (oxacillin MICs < or = 0.25 microgram/ml) was positive. Multiresistance was observed in 123 (87%) of the 142 mecA-positive S. epidermidis. Of the 332 Staphylococcus aureus isolates, only one (0.3%) was phenotypically resistant to methicillin; the strain was also resistant to three other unrelated classes of antimicrobials. True methicillin resistance of this strain was manifested by the presence of the mecA gene in PCR. Based on these results, multiresistance was still extremely rate among the S. aureus in our country, whereas among the S. epidermidis as many as half of the blood isolates in central hospitals were multiresistant.