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Updated recommendations for treating Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in acute-care hospitals have been released.

MRSA is a dangerous form of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph) which is commonly found on the skin.  MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant form of the bacteria that is found in both community and in healthcare settings.  Community-associated (CA-MRSA) MRSA is more usually spread via skin-to-skin contact, through crowding, or just close contact, such as high school wrestlers or child care settings. Hospital-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) is spread through human contact and from exposure to contaminated medical devices, equipment, or healthcare environments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate MRSA causes approximately 70,000 severe infections each year and is responsible for an estimated 9,000 deaths. When spread or contracted through a healthcare facility, MRSA, like a host of other germs, is known as a healthcare-acquired infection (HAI).  According to the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), approximately ten percent of HAI are related to MRSA. 

Prior to the pandemic, research suggested that rates of multi-drug resistant HAIs had decreased between 2012 and 2017. Rates of MRSA declined approximately 18 percent in that time period.  Those gains evaporated during the pandemic years.  The new guidelines published by SHEA are the first since 2014 to provide practical suggestions to reduce the spread and incidence of MRSA.

In a press release, Dr. David Calfee, senior author on the new guidelines said, “The enormous strain put on healthcare during the pandemic may have contributed to the observed increase in some hospital infections. We have data that show MRSA infections rose. The evidence that informs these recommendations shows that we can be successful in preventing transmission and infection. We can get back to the pre-2020 rates and then do even better.”

Some of the suggestions made in the guidelines include:

  • Escalate  antimicrobial stewardship to an essential role in the prescription of antibiotics.
  • Implement ongoing assessment and surveillance of identified patients and introduce or continue to use contact precautions for patients who are MRSA colonized or infected.
  • Hospital-wide surveillance to reduce MRSA colonization and exposure.
  • Review disinfection protocols of equipment, devices, and environments to protect patients and workers from colonization or infection
  • Implement and regularize communication around hand hygiene protocols, as well as the use of gowns and gloves around those who are colonized.

Added Dr. Calfee, “Basic infection prevention practices, such as hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfection of the healthcare environment and equipment, remain foundational for preventing MRSA.” If implemented, this guidance could reduce MRSA as well as other pathogens in healthcare settings—saving lives in the process.

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