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New screening test for MRSA could reduce infections and costs

A team of researchers led by Dr Stephen Harbarth have claimed that a new screening test for MRSA could prove to be useful in reducing the // infection rates in hospitals and cut down the £1 billion-a-year cost incurred by the NHS in dealing with the bug.

The new test tracks the presence of the "superbug's" DNA in patient swabs. The researchers said that this test was able to reduce the time needed to identify the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bug and thus avert infections. In the current study conducted at Geneva University Hospital, researchers found that if the test had not been used 55 carriers would have been missed. "A molecular MRSA detection assay (test) permits rapid identification of MRSA carriage in critically ill patients. It could help to improve MRSA control strategies, especially if it is linked to systematic on-admission screening and pre-emptive isolation of newly admitted patients," the researchers wrote in the journal Critical Care. 1,053 patients were tested in the medical and surgical ICUs at Geneva University Hospital between January 2003 and August 2005. "Despite the fact that culture-based MRSA screening techniques have proven cheap and sensitive if samples are collected from several body sites, the time to report the results remains a major issue. Definitive identification and testing results are usually available only 48 to 96 hours after sample collection, a time delay that could allow MRSA cross-transmission if patients are not presumptively placed under contact precautions," the researchers concluded.

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