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A study led by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has shown screening all intensive care unit (ICU) patients for MRSA using new molecular tests that can deliver results within just a few hours, is likely to represent a good use of NHS resources


This is provided patients found to be MRSA positive can be treated promptly with antiseptic washes or nasal antimicrobials that can suppress or clear the MRSA, and resistance to these treatments does not become a major issue.

This research is published in the British Medical Journal today (Friday).The main methods of combating MRSA in UK hospitals include using antibacterial washes or nasal antimicrobials (a process known as decolonisation), and isolating patients. Isolation includes the wearing of aprons and gloves by healthcare workers in contact with patients. Increasing healthcare worker hand hygiene is also a key intervention aimed at preventing the spread of MRSA.Study author Dr Julie Robotham, a HPA health economist said:

Our research shows that new rapid MRSA screening technologies can represent good value for money in ICUs, but it also highlights the need for further research into the best methods to minimise the risk of MRSA infection and onward spread in these settings.

“Our analysis is aimed at people who have to make difficult spending decisions within the NHS and who seek to provide the best patient care with the budget available to them.”

There are currently a number of options available to screen for MRSA in this country, ranging from expensive molecular tests which can give a result in a few hours to conventional laboratory tests which are cheaper but take three days or more to give a result.In England, all relevant patients should be screened and NHS organisations were encouraged to develop local screening protocols based on their experience of screening.  However, questions remain over which screening and control methods are most effective and best value for money.

The HPA model-based study addressed both the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness (value for money) of the various combinations of screening, decolonisation and isolation control practices available for ICUs, where MRSA infections are most life-threatening and costly.Study co-author Professor Barry Cookson, director of the HCAI department at the HPA, said:

“The number of MRSA bloodstream infections in England and Wales has decreased dramatically over the past few years thanks to strict infection control measures employed across the NHS. But we must not be complacent – MRSA can cause serious complications and even death, particularly for ICU patients, and we are encouraged to have identified a strategy that could further reduce the burden of this infection.”

Source: HPA

Written by Scott Buckler
Friday, 07 October 2011 15:03

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