A new report on how hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) spreads after patients are discharged has at least one hospitalist wondering whether HM could, or should, take a leading role in reducing MRSA transfers.
The study, "Carriage of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Home Care Settings," identified MRSA in 191 of the 1,501 patients (12.7%) who were screened before discharge from French hospitals in 2003 and 2004. Researchers reported that 19% of relatives and caretakers who came into contact with the patients identified with MRSA also acquired the bacteria (Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(15)1372-1378).
Hospitalist and infectious-disease specialist James Pile, MD, FACP, FHM, interim director of the Division of Hospital Medicine at CWRU/MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, says the study might be most important for the questions it raises regarding the degree to which community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) is colonizing household contacts of discharged patients, as the burden of clinical disease in those individuals is likely to be greater than in those colonized with traditional, healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). CA-MRSA appears to be supplanting HA-MRSA in many hospitals, Dr. Pile says, and the simple intervention of more rigorous hand washing by caregivers and other household contacts of patients discharged with MRSA infections could help limit the associated fallout.
“This is a chance for healthcare professionals, and hospitalists specifically, to recognize that and to counsel that as patients leave the hospital,” Dr. Pile says.
The authors note that “because none of the household contacts who acquired MRSA developed an infection, it is unclear whether this transmission represents a serious health problem.”
To that end, Dr. Pile says HM should wait for more definitive studies before committing to potentially time-consuming QI projects focused on MRSA transmissions to the home. “Before hospitalists galvanize their resources to try to tackle this problem,” Dr. Pile says, “we want to make sure there is enough bang for the buck.”