MRSA Carriage Rates Vary Widely in Nursing Homes, Study Finds

After reviewing the stark contrasts in carriage rates of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in several California nursing homes, researchers have concluded that some facilities could be doing more to prevent the bacteria’s spread, according to a study published in the January 2011 issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The study, which looked at 10 nursing homes in Orange County, California, found that 31% of the residents who were tested were carrying MRSA (meaning they could pass the bacteria along to others, but were not necessarily sick with infection). That rate is substantially higher than rates found in hospitals and even intensive care units, researchers said.

However, the study also found that carriage rates in each of the individual facilities in the study varied widely, from a high of 52% in one facility to a low of 7% in another.

“The high overall levels of MRSA are reason for concern,” researchers said. “But the variation in rates between facilities may be good news because it suggests some facilities are finding effective ways to contain the bacteria.”

The researchers took nasal swabs from a sample of 100 residents in each of the 10 homes. They also took samples from 50 people at each home at the time they were admitted to get an idea of how much MRSA was coming into each facility.

The study found that a nursing home’s rate of MRSA carriage was not simply a result of how much MRSA came in with new residents, and suggests that some homes do a better job than others of containing the bacteria once it arrives. For example, two nursing homes in the study had identical MRSA intake rates of 12%, but one of those homes had an overall MRSA carriage among its established residents of 22%, while the other had a rate of 42%.

The next step, researchers said, is to find out exactly what these facilities are doing to better contain MRSA.

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