A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that universal MRSA screening upon admission to a hospital may not lead to fewer MRSA infections. The study compared two sets of surgery patients who received services at a Swiss hospital.
One group of more than 10,000 patients were screened for MRSA prior to surgery. If they tested positive for MRSA they were isolated and treated with disinfectant and antibiotics. The control group was of similar size and was not screened. Results from the study show no significant differences in the infection rates between the two groups.
"This is what we've been saying all long," said Kathy Warye, chief executive officer of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, a group that opposes efforts to mandate MRSA testing.
While screening patients can be a valuable, it's not a "magic wand" and it's not always the best way to deploy a medical institution's resources, said Dr. Stephen Weber, director of infection control at the University of Chicago Hospitals
Critics of the report's findings say the study may've overlooked some pre-existing MRSA reservoirs:
"Dr. Barry Farr, a MRSA expert, noted the Swiss hospital didn't screen patients on medical wards, who probably served as a reservoir of MRSA infections within the institution and skewed the study's results.
About one-third of surgery patients at the Swiss hospital had surgery before measures could be taken to control potential MRSA infections; that may have contributed to the findings, said Dr. Karen Kaul, chair of molecular pathology at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare."
Responses from both sides (pro and con) augment a central argument in VIGILAIR's infection control (IC) strategy.
- We believe that IC is dynamic and multifaceted
- There is no one strategy to eliminate infection
- There are many reservoirs of infection including patients, healthcare workers and the environment
- A prudent IC policy attacks pathogen reservoirs on several fronts simultaneously; bundling strategies works best
So, Now What?
MRSA screening has resulted in significant benefit for other facilities, notably Scandinavian hospitals that have virtually eliminated nosocomial MRSA infection after implementing 100% screening upon admission. This new study is not enough justification for a wholesale discrediting of MRSA screening. It is, however, more evidence that IC is more like a web than a chain. Breaking one link of transmission rarely does the trick.