Aggressive MRSA screening 'for all healthcare workers'

Healthcare workers should be screened for MRSA before being employed and during outbreaks, claim infectious disease experts.

A review of 169 studies that screened over 33,000 healthcare workers for MRSA showed that 4.6 per cent carried the antibiotic resistant bacteria and 5.1 per cent has clinical MRSA infections.

Even good adherence to infection control did not entirely prevent transition of MRSA to staff, say the researchers in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases

Healthcare workers carrying MRSA in the nose or throat coud release ‘clouds' of MRSA into the air if they have upper respiratory tract infections, raising the risk of spreading the bacteria, particularly if treating patients with burns or open wounds.

Aggressive screening of healthcare workers, even if they have no symptoms, is needed to prevent them being vectors for MRSA, say Dr Stephan Harbarth from the University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland, and Dr Werner Alrich, from the University of Witwatersand in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

‘Although no single approach to dealing with MRSA in healthcare workers will work universally, aggressive screening and eradication policies seem justified in outbreak investigations or when MRSA has not reached endemic levels,' they said.

Lancet Infect Dis 2008; 8: 289-301

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