The infection control management of MRSA in acute care


  • This systematic review updates a previous review published in 2002.

Dr Elizabeth J Halcomb, School of Nursing, Building 7 Campbelltown Campus, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia. Email:


Background  Many acute care facilities report endemic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), while others describe the occurrence of sporadic disease outbreaks. The timely implementation of effective infection control measures is essential to minimise the incidence of MRSA cases and the magnitude of disease outbreaks. Management strategies for the containment and control of MRSA currently vary between facilities and demonstrate varying levels of effectiveness.

Objectives  This review sought to systematically review the best available research regarding the efficacy of infection control practices in controlling endemic MRSA or MRSA outbreaks in the acute hospital setting. It updates an original review published in 2002.

Search strategy  A systematic search for relevant published or unpublished English language literature was undertaken using electronic databases, the reference lists of retrieved papers and the Internet. This extended the search of the original review. Databases searched included: Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and Joanna Briggs Institute Evidence Library.

Selection criteria  All research reports published between 1990 and August 2005 in the English language that focused upon the infection control strategies that were implemented in response to either a nosocomial outbreak of MRSA or endemic MRSA within an acute clinical setting were included. Only studies that reported interventions which were implemented following the collection of baseline data were included.

Data collection and analysis  Two reviewers assessed each paper against the inclusion criteria and a validated quality scale. Data extraction was undertaken using a purposely designed tool. Given the heterogeneity of the interventions and outcomes measures, statistical comparisons of findings were not possible, therefore, the findings of this review are presented in a narrative format.

Results  Fourteen papers met the inclusion criteria for this review. Of these, 11 papers achieved a quality score above the threshold and were included in the review. Of the included papers, five describe MRSA outbreaks, while the remaining six describe endemic MRSA. All included studies used either exploratory descriptive or comparative designs.

The varying combinations of interventions described in the included studies make it impossible to differentiate the efficacy of individual or even groups of interventions. The fact that most studies reported positive findings may reflect the bias towards publication of effective interventions.

Implications for clinical practice  This review provides evidence that the use of multifaceted strategies can reduce nosocomial MRSA transmission in both outbreaks of MRSA and settings where MRSA is endemic. The heterogeneous nature of the topic, combinations of interventions implemented and methodological weaknesses of the studies impairs the ability to aggregate data and develop specific recommendations for practice.