PURPOSE: Our unit has used a selective screening policy for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonisation using standard chromogenic growth media, based upon risk stratification. The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of this selective screening policy.
METHODS: A cohort of 429 patients was assessed for their risk status for MRSA colonisation using both rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swabs and traditional culture and sensitivity analysis. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values and negative predictive values of the traditional selective approach were calculated compared to universal rapid screening.
RESULTS: One hundred eighteen patients were considered high risk and would traditionally be further screened with standard culture of swabs. The prevalence of MRSA was 15/429 (3.5%). The sensitivity of selective screening was 53% identifying eight of 15 cases. The false-negative rate was therefore 47% and seven would have been missed. PCR results were available within four to six hours, whereas culture results were only available at 24 hours for the media showing no growth and not until 72 hours for positive MRSA cases.
CONCLUSIONS: We now advocate universal screening prior to, or on admission, using this rapid PCR test, as we consider this identifies MRSA colonisation more effectively and facilitates "ring-fencing" of orthopaedic beds.