Determining the Utility of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Nares Screening in Antimicrobial Stewardship

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Aug 22;71(5):1142-1148. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciz974.


Background: Treatment of suspected methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a cornerstone of many antibiotic regimens; however, there is associated toxicity. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals screen each patient for MRSA nares colonization on admission and transfer. The objective was to determine the negative predictive value (NPV) of MRSA screening in the determination of subsequent positive clinical culture for MRSA. High NPVs with MRSA nares screening may be used as a stewardship tool.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study across VA medical centers nationwide from 1 January 2007 to 1 January 2018. Data from patients with MRSA nares screening were obtained from the VA Corporate Data Warehouse. Subsequent clinical cultures within 7 days of the nares swab were evaluated for the presence of MRSA. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values, and NPVs were calculated for the entire cohort as well as subgroups for specific culture sites.

Results: This cohort yielded 561 325 clinical cultures from a variety of anatomical sites. The sensitivity and specificity for positive MRSA clinical culture were 67.4% and 81.2%, respectively. The NPV of MRSA nares screening for ruling out MRSA infection was 96.5%. The NPV for bloodstream infections was 96.5%, for intraabdominal cultures it was 98.6%, for respiratory cultures it was 96.1%, for wound cultures it was 93.1%, and for cultures from the urinary system it was 99.2%.

Conclusion: Given the high NPVs, MRSA nares screening may be a powerful stewardship tool for deescalation and avoidance of empirical anti-MRSA therapy.

Keywords: antimicrobial stewardship; bacteremia; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; pneumonia; vancomycin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship*
  • Humans
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus*
  • Nasal Cavity
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / diagnosis
  • Staphylococcal Infections* / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents