Some have reported that adopting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines requiring contact precautions for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had no impact on rates of nosocomial spread or infection, and may therefore waste money. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of active surveillance cultures and barrier precautions for controlling MRSA. Estimated costs of surveillance cultures and isolation measures used during an MRSA outbreak at this hospital were compared with the estimated attributable excess costs of methicillin resistance (i.e., the difference between MRSA and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus costs) for bacteraemias occurring during an MRSA outbreak not promptly controlled at another hospital. The study was set in the neonatal intensive care units of two tertiary care hospitals. Estimated costs of controlling the 10.5-month outbreak in this neonatal intensive care unit that resulted in 18 colonized and four infected infants ranged from $48 617 to $68 637. The estimated attributable excess cost of 75 MRSA bacteraemias in a second neonatal intensive care unit outbreak that resulted in 14 deaths and lasted 51 months was $1 306 600. Weekly active surveillance cultures and isolation of patients with MRSA halted an outbreak at this hospital, and cost 19- to 27-fold less than the attributable costs of MRSA bacteraemias in another outbreak that was not promptly controlled. The costs of infections at other body sites and the human cost of deaths from infection were not estimated but would further help to justify the cost of identifying colonized patients and implementing effective preventive measures.
Copyright 2002 The Hospital Infection Society.