Background: Intensive care units (ICUs) are high-risk areas for transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, but no controlled study has tested the effect of rapid screening and isolation of carriers on transmission in settings with best-standard precautions. We assessed interventions to reduce colonisation and transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in European ICUs.
Methods: We did this study in three phases at 13 ICUs. After a 6 month baseline period (phase 1), we did an interrupted time series study of universal chlorhexidine body-washing combined with hand hygiene improvement for 6 months (phase 2), followed by a 12-15 month cluster randomised trial (phase 3). ICUs were randomly assigned by computer generated randomisation schedule to either conventional screening (chromogenic screening for meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] and vancomycin-resistant enterococci [VRE]) or rapid screening (PCR testing for MRSA and VRE and chromogenic screening for highly resistant Enterobacteriaceae [HRE]); with contact precautions for identified carriers. The primary outcome was acquisition of resistant bacteria per 100 patient-days at risk, for which we calculated step changes and changes in trends after the introduction of each intervention. We assessed acquisition by microbiological surveillance and analysed it with a multilevel Poisson segmented regression model. We compared screening groups with a likelihood ratio test that combined step changes and changes to trend. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00976638.
Findings: Seven ICUs were assigned to rapid screening and six to conventional screening. Mean hand hygiene compliance improved from 52% in phase 1 to 69% in phase 2, and 77% in phase 3. Median proportions of patients receiving chlorhexidine body-washing increased from 0% to 100% at the start of phase 2. For trends in acquisition of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, weekly incidence rate ratio (IRR) was 0·976 (0·954-0·999) for phase 2 and 1·015 (0·998-1·032) for phase 3. For step changes, weekly IRR was 0·955 (0·676-1·348) for phase 2 and 0·634 (0·349-1·153) for phase 3. The decrease in trend in phase 2 was largely caused by changes in acquisition of MRSA (weekly IRR 0·925, 95% CI 0·890-0·962). Acquisition was lower in the conventional screening group than in the rapid screening group, but did not differ significantly (p=0·06).
Interpretation: Improved hand hygiene plus unit-wide chlorhexidine body-washing reduced acquisition of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, particularly MRSA. In the context of a sustained high level of compliance to hand hygiene and chlorhexidine bathings, screening and isolation of carriers do not reduce acquisition rates of multidrug-resistant bacteria, whether or not screening is done with rapid testing or conventional testing.
Funding: European Commission.
Copyright © 2014 Derde et al. Open Access article distributed under the terms of CC BY-NC-SA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.