Background: Asymptomatic colonization with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been described as a risk factor for subsequent MRSA infection. MRSA is an important nosocomial pathogen but has currently been reported in patients without typical risk factors for nosocomial acquisition. This study was designed to evaluate the impact of asymptomatic nares MRSA colonization on the development of subsequent MRSA infection. The incidence of MRSA infection was examined in patients with and patients without MRSA or methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) colonization at admission to the hospital and in those who developed colonization during hospitalization.
Methods: Patients admitted to 5 representative hospital units were prospectively evaluated. Nares samples were obtained for culture at admission and during hospitalization. Laboratory culture results were monitored to identify all MRSA infections that occurred during the study period and 1 year thereafter.
Results: Of the 758 patients who had cultures of nares samples performed at admission, 3.4% were colonized with MRSA, and 21% were colonized with MSSA. A total of 19% of patients with MRSA colonization at admission and 25% who acquired MRSA colonization during hospitalization developed infection with MRSA, compared with 1.5% and 2.0% of patients colonized with MSSA (P<.01) and uncolonized (P<.01), respectively, at admission. MRSA colonization at admission increased the risk of subsequent MRSA infection, compared with MSSA colonization (relative risk [RR], 13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.7-64) or no staphylococcal colonization (RR, 9.5; 95% CI, 3.6-25) at admission. Acquisition of MRSA colonization also increased the risk for subsequent MRSA infection, compared with no acquisition (RR, 12; 95% CI, 4.0-38).
Conclusion: MRSA colonization of nares, either present at admission to the hospital or acquired during hospitalization, increases the risk for MRSA infection. Identifying MRSA colonization at admission could target a high-risk population that may benefit from interventions to decrease the risk for subsequent MRSA infection.