Universal surveillance for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in 3 affiliated hospitals

Ann Intern Med. 2008 Mar 18;148(6):409-18. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-148-6-200803180-00003.


Background: The effect of large-scale expanded surveillance for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on health care-associated MRSA disease is not known.

Objective: To examine the effect of 2 expanded surveillance interventions on MRSA disease.

Design: Observational study comparing rates of MRSA clinical disease during and after hospital admission in 3 consecutive periods: baseline (12 months), MRSA surveillance for all admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU) (12 months), and universal MRSA surveillance for all hospital admissions (21 months).

Setting: A 3-hospital, 850-bed organization with approximately 40,000 annual admissions.

Intervention: Polymerase chain reaction-based nasal surveillance for MRSA followed by topical decolonization therapy and contact isolation of patients who tested positive for MRSA.

Measurements: Poisson and segmented regression models were used to compare prevalence density of hospital-associated clinical MRSA disease (bloodstream, respiratory, urinary tract, and surgical site) in each period. Rates of bloodstream disease with methicillin-susceptible S. aureus were used as a control.

Results: The prevalence density of aggregate hospital-associated MRSA disease (all body sites) per 10,000 patient-days at baseline, during ICU surveillance, and during universal surveillance was 8.9 (95% CI, 7.6 to 10.4), 7.4 (CI, 6.1 to 9.0; P = 0.15 compared with baseline), and 3.9 (CI, 3.2 to 4.7; P < 0.001 compared with baseline and ICU surveillance), respectively. During universal surveillance, the prevalence density of MRSA infection at each body site had a statistically significant decrease compared with baseline. The methicillin-susceptible S. aureus bacteremia rate did not statistically significantly change during the 3 periods. In a segmented regression model, the aggregate hospital-associated MRSA disease prevalence density changed by -36.2% (CI, -65.4% to 9.8%; P = 0.17) from baseline to ICU surveillance and by -69.6% (CI, -89.2% to -19.6%]; P = 0.03) from baseline to universal surveillance. During universal surveillance, the MRSA disease rate decreased during hospitalization and in the 30 days after discharge; no further reduction occurred thereafter. Surveillance with clinical cultures would have identified 17.8% of actual MRSA patient-days, and ICU-based surveillance with polymerase chain reaction would have identified 33.3%.

Limitation: The findings rely on observational data.

Conclusion: The introduction of universal admission surveillance for MRSA was associated with a large reduction in MRSA disease during admission and 30 days after discharge.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Disinfectants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Methicillin Resistance*
  • Mupirocin / therapeutic use
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universal Precautions / methods


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Disinfectants
  • Mupirocin
  • Chlorhexidine