Nurses, staff should receive MRSA screenings, researchers say

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Leaders of healthcare facilities should seriously consider having staff members screened for MRSA, the drug-resistant infection that can wreak havoc on senior populations, Swiss and South African researchers say.

Worker screenings for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) should be conducted "irrespective of the presence of risk factors or pus-producing infections as part of pre-employment examination, or [especially during large MRSA outbreaks] even periodically and unannounced before a work shift," study authors wrote.

They found 4.6% of workers carried MRSA. Of those, 5.1% had clinical MRSA infections. Researchers reviewed information from 169 studies in 37 countries, encompassing more than 33,300 individuals, to reach their conclusions.

"Poor infection control practices were implicated in both acquisition and transmission of MRSA by personnel, but even good adherence to infection control -- including masks and hand hygiene -- did not entirely prevent transmission of MRSA from heavily colonized staff to patients," they wrote.

They acknowledge the cost of so many screenings would give some operators reason to pause, but they also pointed out that MRSA prevalence is lowest in Scandinavia and other areas where surveillance is high. The study is expected to be featured in the May issue of the British medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.