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To study the acquisition and cross-transmission of Staphylococcus aureus in different intensive care units (ICUs).
We performed a multicenter cohort study. Six ICUs in 6 countries participated. During a 3-month period at each ICU, all patients had nasal and perineal swab specimens obtained at ICU admission and during their stay. All S. aureus isolates that were collected were genotyped by spa typing and multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis typing for cross-transmission analysis. A total of 629 patients were admitted to ICUs, and 224 of these patients were found to be colonized with S. aureus at least once during ICU stay (22% were found to be colonized with methicillin-resistant S. aureus [MRSA]). A total of 316 patients who had test results negative for S. aureus at ICU admission and had at least 1 follow-up swab sample obtained for culture were eligible for acquisition analysis.
A total of 45 patients acquired S. aureus during ICU stay (31 acquired methicillin-susceptible S. aureus [MSSA], and 14 acquired MRSA). Several factors that were believed to affect the rate of acquisition of S. aureus were analyzed in univariate and multivariate analyses, including the amount of hand disinfectant used, colonization pressure, number of beds per nurse, antibiotic use, length of stay, and ICU setting (private room versus open ICU treatment). Greater colonization pressure and a greater number of beds per nurse correlated with a higher rate of acquisition for both MSSA and MRSA. The type of ICU setting was related to MRSA acquisition only, and the amount of hand disinfectant used was related to MSSA acquisition only. In 18 (40%) of the cases of S. aureus acquisition, cross-transmission from another patient was possible.
Colonization pressure, the number of beds per nurse, and the treatment of all patients in private rooms correlated with the number of S. aureus acquisitions on an ICU. The amount of hand disinfectant used was correlated with the number of cases of MSSA acquisition but not with the number of cases of MRSA acquisition. The number of cases of patient-to-patient cross-transmission was comparable for MSSA and MRSA.
In the Netherlands, the prevalence of methicillin resistance among Staphylococcus aureus isolates has been kept to less than 1% by using active screening programs and isolation. At the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), an active screening program for methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in the surgical intensive care unit (ICU) was implemented in 1986. Between 1992 and 2001, only 6 patients with MRSA were admitted to the surgical ICU. However, 4 of these 6 strains were able to spread to 23 other patients and 15 healthcare workers (HCWs). We were surprised by the epidemic behavior of these strains and wondered whether this was exceptional for S. aureus or whether methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) was also spreading in the ICU.
A 2-month, prospective, observational study to investigate the incidence and spread of MSSA in the surgical ICU of UMCU and historical data collected during a 10-year period regarding MRSA.
A 10-bed surgical ICU in a 1,042-bed teaching hospital.
Weekly swabs revealed the presence of MSSA in 11 (24%) of 45 patients and 16 (22%) of 72 HCWs. Of all 4,105 patient–HCW contacts, there were only 21 episodes in which both the patient and the HCW were found to carry MSSA. With the use of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, no identical strains could be identified.
In our surgical ICU, MRSA seems to spread more easily than MSSA, probably because of selection under antibiotic pressure or a still unknown intrinsic factor within MRSA.
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