Can we do better in controlling and preventing methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus(MRSA) in the intensive care unit (ICU)?

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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is prevalent in many hospitals, but many of its most serious clinical manifestations, such as bloodstream infection and ventilator-associated pneumonia, are seen in the intensive care unit (ICU). Many interventions to prevent and control MRSA were initially pioneered in the ICU and subsequently extended to the rest of the hospital. Recent studies confirm how many of these are effective. Active surveillance reveals higher numbers of cases when compared with the sole use of clinical specimens to identify MRSA-positive patients. Although one recent study from the UK has suggested that isolation has no impact on MRSA transmission in the ICU, current recommendations include isolation or cohorting, combined with decolonisation (e.g., mupirocin to the nose and chlorhexidine baths) as major control measures. However, the excessive use of mupirocin for nasal MRSA decolonisation leads to resistance. Improved compliance with hand hygiene recommendations and better antibiotic stewardship are also important. Rapid diagnosis such as PCR may utilise isolation facilities more effectively by identifying MRSA patients earlier. However, all these measures must be combined with adequate numbers of staff and suitable space and facilities, e.g., single rooms, to be maximally effective. Finally, while much can be done within the ICU itself, MRSA in the ICU often reflects the difficulties elsewhere in the acute hospital and the health service generally, in terms of the control and prevention of healthcare-associated infection.

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