The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) found that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is associated with up to 375,000 infections and 23,000 deaths in the United States. It is a major cause of surgical site infections, with a higher mortality and longer duration of care than Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus. A multifactorial bundled approach is needed to control this epidemic, with single interventions unlikely to have a significant impact on attenuating MRSA infection rates.
Active surveillance has been studied in a wide range of surgical patients, including surgical intensive care and non-intensive care units; cardiac, vascular, orthopedic, obstetric, head and neck cancer and gastrostomy patients. There is sufficient evidence demonstrating a beneficial effect of surveillance and eradication prior to surgery to recommend its use on an expanded basis.
Studies on MRSA surveillance in surgical patients that were published over the last 10 years were reviewed. In at least five of these studies, the MRSA colonization status of patients was reported to be a factor in preoperative antibiotic selection, with the modification of treatment regiments including the switching to vancomycin or teicoplanin in MRSA positive preoperative patients. Several authors also used decolonization protocols on all preoperative patients but used surveillance to determine the duration of the decolonization.
Universal decolonization of all patients, regardless of MRSA status has been advocated as an alternative prevention protocol in which surveillance is not utilized. Concern exists regarding antimicrobial stewardship. The daily and universal use of intranasal antibiotics and/or antiseptic washes may encourage the promotion of bacterial resistance and provide a competitive advantage to other more lethal organisms.
Decolonization protocols which indiscriminately neutralize all bacteria may not be the best approach. If a patient's microbiome is markedly challenged with antimicrobials, rebuilding it with replacement commensal bacteria may become a future therapy.
Preoperative MRSA surveillance allows the selection of appropriate prophylactic antibiotics, the use of extended decolonization protocols in positive patients, and provides needed data for epidemiological studies.
Kavanagh, K. T., Calderon, L. E., Saman, D. M., & Abusalem, S. K. (2014). The use of surveillance and preventative measures for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections in surgical patients. Antimicrob Resist Infect Control Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, 3(1), 18. doi:10.1186/2047-2994-3-18