MRSA screening fails to stop spread

A DoH plan to screen patients before surgery may have no effect on infection rates.

Universal MRSA screening of patients on admission to hospital is of 'no benefit' according to a Swiss study.

The finding calls into question the efficacy of universal screening as a method of reducing rates of hospital-acquired MRSA, a method that has been proposed by the DoH.

The study, carried out between July 2004 and May 2006, included 21,754 surgical patients at a Swiss teaching hospital.

Over six months, 10,193 patients were screened for MRSA. This accounted for 94 per cent of all surgical patients.

Of these patients, 515 were MRSA positive. This included 337 previously unknown MRSA carriers.

However, despite better identification of MRSA carriers, there was no reduction in MRSA infection rates during the screening period, compared with a six-month period when only usual infection control measures were applied.

Professor Mark Enright from the Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care at Imperial College, London, said: 'It's disappointing that they didn't see an outcome in terms of transmission.'

Universal MRSA screening of all patients admitted to hospital was one of the strategies proposed under the DoH Saving Lives programme in 2006 for reducing MRSA carriage in the general population.

Professor Enright said a better use of healthcare resources would be screening for community-acquired MRSA in primary care (GP, 29 February), as proposed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

'We have an increasing problem of community-acquired MRSA, that might even be the beginning of an epidemic.

'Asking GPs to look out for these infections would be a more effective way of seeing how much MRSA we have in this country,' he said.

HPA data shows there were 1,072 cases of MRSA reported in England from June to September 2007, an 18 per cent reduction on the previous quarter.

GPletters@haymarket.com

JAMA 2007

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