MRSA is a highly antibiotic-resistant form of staph infection. Left untreated, it can cause infections throughout the body and even lead to death. However, many times it gets misdiagnosed, and doctors prescribe patients medications that will not cure here. Luckily, a new test on the market makes it faster to detect MRSA.
The microbiology laboratories in hospitals are constantly looking for ways to improve the care that the patients staying there receive. Part of this is making sure that patients are properly diagnosed so that they can get the care and medications that they need. One company in the UK has created a battlefield-inspired test for MRSA the BacLite Rapid MRSA test which is currently being used in hospitals through the UK and Ireland.
Military Might vs. Bacteria
BacLite came from the UKs Ministry of Defense. The idea behind the test was to be able to test for potential biological warfare pathogens quickly and accurately in the even of a terrorist attack. However, it is now being seen that it can have a second role helping hospitals diagnose incoming patients.
The evaluations done on the test show that it can get accurate results in about five hours, when previous microbiological tests took at least two days to get results, wasting valuable treatment time. A trial of over 1300 tests was performed, with results of 93.4% for sensitivity and 95.7% for sensitivity. This showed that doctors can have confidence when admitting patients that the results were correct, since the chances that a negative test result is correct was over 99%.
By being able to screen incoming patients for MRSA and get results the same day, hospitals can greatly affect the rate of infection. They can also get started immediately on the cultures that they need to determine the best course of treatment for the patient.
However, basic sanitary and hygiene procedures will still need to be followed once a patient is diagnosed to prevent the spread of MRSA amongst patients.
For hospital workers, great care should be used when handling patients with MRSA. This includes following proper hand washing procedures before and after examining patients. Make use of an alcohol based hand sanitizer as well. When visiting patients with active infections, protective garb like masks and gloves should be worn at all times to prevent the further spread of germs.
Follow basic biohazard procedures for discarding any wound dressings and cleaning up any spills. Patient rooms should be disinfected daily, including bed linens, bathrooms, frequently used surfaces, and doorknobs and light switches.
For patients, following good hygiene can help stop the spread from yourself to other patients, visitors, and staff in the hospital. Follow hand washing procedures, and bathe with antibiotic soaps and shampoos. Be sure to follow all treatment instructions carefully, and finish all courses of antibiotics.
Being able to identify MRSA early on can help doctors and hospital staff starts the appropriate treatment protocols and isolation procedures. However, it is not a prevention for MRSA, and normal hospital procedures and hygiene should be followed at all times.
Some hospitals are considering make testing for MRSA a prerequisite to being admitted. The Veterans Health Administration hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania checks a nasal swab for MRSA. Patients that test positive for the bacteria are then placed in isolation for their stay. The hospital subsequently saw a reduction in the number of MRSA infections by fifty percent, going from one case per thousand days of patient care to one case per 2000 days. The belief is that if more hospitals follow suit, then overall the cases of MRSA infections will be fewer and easier to treat.
The hospitals that have started screening feel that it is a good safety initiative, and helps to improve the quality of patient care. These programs come at a time when the number of MRSA infections is on the rise. In 1974, only two percent of staph infections were MRSA. This number increased to 22% in 1995 and a whopping 63% in 2004. The CDC estimates that approximately 126,000 patients are infected each year, with about 5,000 of those resulting in death.
Health Care Costs
Besides the risk to patients, MRSA costs billions of extra dollars in health care costs each year. New, faster tests may make it easier to identify MRSA and take appropriate action when patients are admitted. It is thought that many hospital infections could have been prevented. In the long run, this could mean that testing for MRSA could end up saving the hospitals money, as well as reduce lawsuits, by decreasing the number of infections.
However, not everyone feels that universal MRSA screening is the best answer to the problem. Those against universal screening feel that there is not enough evidence to prove that universal screening is sufficient to reduce the number of MRSA cases. They say that the research done so far has been in response to MRSA outbreak situations, instead of randomized, controlled trials. Government-funded randomized trials suggests that screening and contact precautions alone is not enough to lower the rate of infections.
Another concern with some doctors is that patients in isolation may not get the same attention from doctors and nurses because of fear of contagions. This can lead to other health problems from neglect, including risk of falls or pressure ulcers. Some patients may also suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety because of the isolation.
Others feel that the focus should be on proper hand washing and infection control procedures instead of merely screening and isolating patients. Even in isolation, there is no guarantee that staff will follow procedures every single time without the proper training, which will increase the risk of cross contamination between patients.
Further investigation of MRSA testing and its affects on the number of infections will have to be done in order to determine the most effective course towards preventing the disease.