Screening for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Colonization Using Sponges

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Nasal swab culture is the standard method for identifying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriers. However, this method is known to miss a substantial portion of those carrying MRSA elsewhere. We hypothesized that the additional use of a sponge to collect skin culture samples would significantly improve the sensitivity of MRSA detection.


Hospitalized patients with recent MRSA infection were enrolled and underwent MRSA screening of the forehead, nostrils, pharynx, axilla, and groin with separate swabs and the forehead, axilla, and groin with separate sponges. Staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) typing was conducted by polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


A total of 105 MRSA patients were included in the study.


At least 1 specimen from 56.2% of the patients grew MRSA. Among patients with at least 1 positive specimen, the detection sensitivities were 79.7% for the swabs and 64.4% for the sponges. Notably, 86.4% were detected by a combination of sponges and nasal swab, and 72.9% were detected by a combination of pharyngeal and nasal swabs, whereas only 50.9% were detected by nasal swab alone (P<0.0001 and P=0.0003, respectively). Most isolates had SCCmec type II (59.9%) and IV (35.7%). No correlation was observed between the SCCmec types and collection sites.


Screening using a sponge significantly improves MRSA detection when used in addition to screening with the standard nasal swab.

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