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Evanston-Northwestern Study Proves Effectiveness of MRSA Screening to Reduce Hospital Infections

NEW YORK, March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds weight to the growing evidence that screening incoming hospital patients for the bacterium MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is effective, and indeed essential, to reduce MRSA hospital infections. The study, published yesterday, resulted in a 70% reduction in MRSA hospital infections at the three hospitals in the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare System, located near Chicago.

This was the first "large scale, universal admission MRSA surveillance program in the United States," researchers reported, but the stunning results are consistent with at least fifty earlier studies showing that it is not possible to stop the spread of drug-resistant bacteria from patient to patient without screening. "To stop MRSA from racing through the hospital, you must know the source, that is, which patients are bringing it in," says Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., Chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. "Without screening, the germs spread rapidly on equipment, lab coats, blood pressure cuffs, wheel chairs, virtually every surface. Patients who are carrying MRSA unknowingly shed it everywhere, putting the patients around them at risk."

Evanston-Northwestern researchers used a rapid test (average turnaround time from swabbing the patient to receiving test results at bedside was 18 hours). The rapid test enabled caregivers to promptly isolate patients identified as MRSA positive, use gowns, gloves and dedicated or disposable equipment when treating them, and apply mupirocin to their nasal passages and chlorhexidine to their skin to reduce the presence of the bacteria.

"This new study sets the record straight, correcting the misimpression created by an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 12th suggesting that screening for MRSA was ineffective. That previous study, done in one surgical ward of a Geneva Switzerland hospital, "was seriously flawed," according to McCaughey, "rendering its findings insignificant." In that previous study, many patients were not tested until they had been in the hospital twelve hours, and test results were delayed an average of 22.5 hours after that --- a 34.5 hour delay overall. In fact, 41% of patients had already had their surgeries, before their test results were known. Consequently, the precautions, including isolation, that are supposed to be taken in response to an MRSA positive result, were not taken. The delay allowed the germ to spread to other patients.

"The evidence is overwhelming that hospitals cannot effectively prevent the spread of MRSA bacteria if they don't know which patients carry these germs," says McCaughey. "Screening saves lives. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should call on all hospitals to screen incoming patients for MRSA."

SOURCE Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths
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