Levels of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in nursing homes may be much higher than believed, according to a study published in the November issue on the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
More than a quarter of nursing home residents across Orange County, California, tested positive for the bacterium, the study found. Researchers conducted nasal swab tests on 3,806 residents in 26 different nursing homes in the county. A total of 837 carried the microbe.
Although the study only examined nursing homes within one region, researchers worry that it may serve as a snapshot of a nationwide problem. Community-associated MRSA spreads more easily and can cause more severe illness than the version of MRSA associated with hospitals. Yet the wider medical community had assumed that a nursing home's lower resident turnover would keep MRSA levels lower than in hospitals, an assumption the study seems to call into question.
The study's findings may help skilled nursing facilities to improve regional communication with other health care facilities when an outbreak occurs. "These findings support the need for regional approaches to reduce MRSA," said Lyndsey Hudson, the study's lead author.
Older age is a key risk factor for many MRSA infections, as are diabetic wounds and catheter sites.