Background: We investigated the long-term effect of a single 5-day application of intranasal mupirocin calcium ointment on Staphylococcus aureus nasal and hand colonization. The subjects were 68 healthy volunteers who were health care workers with stable S aureus nasal carriage and who had participated in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of intranasal mupirocin ointment.
Methods: A 1-year prospective cohort study of S aureus nasal carriers after treatment with active drug or placebo was performed. Cultures were obtained from all subjects 6 and 12 months after therapy. All subjects returned for the 6-month visit; 63 (93%) were examined at 1 year. The major outcome measure was the relative proportion of any S aureus cultured at either site at 6 and 12 months. The S aureus isolates were typed by restriction endonuclease analysis of plasmid DNA and by antibiotic susceptibility tests; the similarity of nasal and hand isolate "fingerprints" was compared.
Results: At 6 months, nasal carriage was 48% in the treatment group vs 72% in controls (relative risk, 0.68; 95% confidence interval, 0.45 to 1.02; P = .054); at 1 year, nasal carriage was 53% vs 76%, respectively (relative risk, 0.70; 95% confidence interval, 0.48 to 1.02; P = .056). Hand carriage at 6 months was significantly reduced among mupirocin recipients relative to controls (15% and 48%; P = .04, adjusted for the baseline rate of hand carriage). Thirty-six percent of treated subjects were recolonized in the nares with a new strain at 1 year, whereas 34% had reisolation of the original strain after initially negative posttherapy cultures. During the year of follow-up, hand carriage was observed at least once in two thirds of the subjects. Nearly all of the hand isolates (87%) exactly matched the subjects' coincident nasal plasmid fingerprint and antibiogram type.
Conclusions: A single brief treatment course of intranasal mupirocin was effective in reducing nasal S aureus carriage for up to 1 year. When S aureus was recovered after nasal decolonization, the new isolate was as likely to represent colonization with a new strain as reisolation of the original strain. Staphylococcus aureus hand carriage was significantly decreased 6 months after therapy, further implicating the nares as the primary reservoir site for hand carriage.