We describe the identification and control of an outbreak of gentamicin resistant, meticillin susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (GR-MSSA) on a 36-bed neonatal unit (NNU) in London. Control measures included admission and weekly screening for GR-MSSA, cohorting affected babies, environmental and staff screening, hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) for terminal disinfection of cohort rooms, and reinforcement of hand hygiene. Seventeen babies were affected by the outbreak strain over ten months; seven were infected and ten were asymptomatic carriers. The outbreak strain was gentamicin resistant and all isolates were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The outbreak strains spread rapidly and were associated with a high rate of bacteraemia (35% of 17 affected patients had bacteraemia vs. 10% of 284 patients with MSSA prior to the outbreak, p=0.007). None of 113 staff members tested were colonised with GR-MSSA. GR-MSSA was recovered from 11.5% of 87 environmental surfaces in cohort rooms, 7.1% of 28 communal surfaces and 4.1% of 74 surfaces after conventional terminal disinfection. None of 64 surfaces sampled after HPV decontamination yielded GR-MSSA. Recovery of GR-MSSA from two high level sites suggested that the organism could have been transmitted via air. Occasional breakdown in hand hygiene compliance and contaminated environmental surfaces probably contributed to transmission.
Keywords: Environmental contamination; MSSA; Staphylococcus aureus; gentamicin-resistance; hydrogen peroxide vapour decontamination; neonatal; outbreak.
Conflict of interest statement
Declaration of conflicting interest: JAO is employed part-time by Bioquell (UK) Ltd. All other authors report no potential conflicts of interest.
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