Can the use of a rapid polymerase chain screening method decrease the incidence of nosocomial meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus?

M.A. Aldeyab, M.P. Kearney, C.M. Hughes, M.G. Scott, M.M. Tunney, D.F. Gilpin, M.J. Devine, J.D. Watson, A. Gardiner, C. Funston, K. Savage, J.C. McElnay

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Rapid detection of MRSA may be important for the control of MRSA spread in hospitals. The aim of this investigation was to compare the use of a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening method with standard culture for the detection of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonisation and to determine its impact on the incidence of MRSA in two hospital wards. During the first phase of the investigation (four months), patients in a surgical ward were screened using the rapid PCR technique and patients in a medical/cardiology ward were screened with standard culture methods. During the second phase of the investigation (four months), MRSA screening methods were switched between the two wards. An audit of infection control practices on each ward was made at the end of each phase in order to check whether any changes had occurred that might influence the risks of MRSA transmission. Use of the rapid PCR method significantly reduced the median time between swabs being taken, to the results being telephoned to the wards (excluding weekends), from 47 to 21 h (P <0.001). However, comparison of MRSA incidence during use of PCR (20/1000 bed-days) and culture methods (22.1/1000 bed-days) revealed no significant difference in incidence on the surgical ward (P = 0.69). Regarding the medical/cardiology ward, analysis of data was complicated by an increase in the detection of MRSA during the PCR phase (P <0.05). The study demonstrated that rapid PCR can significantly reduce the turnaround times but reducing the time between swabs being taken to results being telephoned to the ward is still not sufficient to limit the transmission of MRSA. © 2008 The Hospital Infection Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number1
Early online date26 Nov 2008
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Nov 2008


  • Infection control practices
  • Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Nosocomial infection
  • Rapid polymerase chain reaction
  • Screening
  • meticillin
  • article
  • bacterial colonization
  • bacterial transmission
  • bacterium culture
  • bacterium detection
  • cardiology
  • clinical effectiveness
  • controlled study
  • diagnostic value
  • hospital infection
  • human
  • incidence
  • infection control
  • infection risk
  • intermethod comparison
  • medical audit
  • methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • nonhuman
  • real time polymerase chain reaction
  • risk assessment
  • risk factor
  • Staphylococcus infection
  • surgical ward
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques
  • Cross Infection
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Staphylococcal Infections
  • Time Factors


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