Control of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) still generates controversy among infection control practitioners. Opponents claim that once MRSA becomes endemic in an institution, control efforts are no longer justified. This review examines the usefulness, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of control programmes in acute-care hospitals where eradication of MRSA has either failed or has never been attempted; hence, the pathogen has become endemic. High endemicity is associated with increased hospital-acquired infection rates, increased use of glycopeptides and subsequent risk of emergence of antibiotic-resistant Gram-positive bacteria, and additional healthcare costs. Thus, MRSA control has many advantages. Indeed, in many institutions the actual benefit of containment efforts was manifested through the resultant decrease in the incidence of hospital-acquired MRSA infections. Successful programmes are based on an early identification of the MRSA reservoir and prompt implementation of contact precautions. The most efficacious strategy to detect occult MRSA carriage is via the screening of high-risk patients on admission to the hospital which has proven to be cost-effective in varied acute-care endemic settings.
Copyright 2001 The Hospital Infection Society.