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Transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among hospital staff in a German trauma centre


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Between October 2001 and February 2002, 324 healthcare workers were screened for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by nose and throat swabs. A positive finding led to activation of a standardised control programme for the affected person who was immediately excluded from work. Family members of those who were MRSA-positive were offered screening free of charge. An eradication programme was carried out in the permanent carriers. MRSA was found in 17 (5.3%) healthcare workers, 11 of whom proved to be permanent carriers, and six temporarily colonised. Three children of a positive healthcare worker showed nasopharyngeal MRSA, the acquisition of which occurred within the hospital. The standardised eradication programme for carriers was successful in most cases but failed in two individuals, whereupon systemic antibiotics were used successfully. The decolonised carriers, observed for more than one year, remained MRSA negative.

Isolation precautions in hospitals do not always prevent hospital staff and their families from acquiring MRSA. The identification of affected employees is difficult because in most cases only asymptomatic colonisation occurs. Screening and eradication can be complicated and costly, and for the affected employees the occupational consequences can be far-reaching as they have no guaranteed legal protection.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr A. Kaminski; e-mail: kaminski@t-online.de

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