Background: Patients with newly acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have significant risks of short-term morbidity and mortality due to this pathogen. We were interested in assessing whether long-term carriers have persistent risks of disease and whether all carriers, regardless of the duration of carriage, should be considered to be reasonable candidates for interventions to reduce the risk of infection.
Methods: We conducted a single-center retrospective cohort study to evaluate the risk of subsequent MRSA infection and death among patients known to have harbored MRSA for at least 1 year (i.e., prevalent carriers).
Results: Among 281 prevalent carriers, 65 (23%) developed a total of 96 discrete and unrelated MRSA infections in the year after their identification as prevalent carriers. The most common infections were pneumonia (accounting for 39% of MRSA infections), soft-tissue infection (14%), and central venous catheter infection (14%). Twenty-four percent of all infections involved bacteremia. Thirty-eight MRSA infections occurred during a new hospitalization, and 32 (84%) of these infections were the reason for admission to the hospital. MRSA contributed to 14 deaths, with 6 of these deaths deemed to be attributable to MRSA. Harboring MRSA for <2 years and MRSA colonization at the time of detection as a prevalent carrier were predictive of subsequent infection with MRSA.
Conclusions: Individuals who are known to have harbored MRSA for >1 year are at high risk for subsequent MRSA morbidity and mortality and should be considered to be targets for intervention, in addition to individuals who have newly acquired this pathogen.