Successful control of widespread methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization and infection in a large teaching hospital in the Netherlands
OBJECTIVE. The low prevalence of infection and colonization with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in The Netherlands is ascribed to a national "search-and-destroy" policy. We describe the measures that were implemented to control widespread MRSA colonization and infection in a Dutch hospital. DESIGN. Descriptive intervention study. SETTING. Teaching medical center with a capacity of 679 beds, including 16 intensive care beds. INTERVENTIONS. MRSA colonization and infection were identified using conventional culture with a selective broth. Isolates were typed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Measures to control the epidemic included screening of contacts (patients and hospital staff), screening of patients at readmission or discharge, strict isolation of MRSA-positive patients, decolonization of colonized staff and patients, the development of an electronic signal identifying MRSA-positive patients, and the development of a culture information-system for hospital personnel. RESULTS. Awareness of uncontrolled dissemination of MRSA began in November 2001. Because the clone involved had a low minimum inhibitory concentration for oxacillin, at first it was not recognized as MRSA. In February 2002, when major screening efforts started, it appeared that MRSA had spread all over the hospital and that many staff members were colonized. By the end of December 2005, a total of 600 patients and 135 staff members were found to be newly colonized. The yearly incidence of cases of MRSA colonization and infection decreased from 351 in 2002 to 56 in 2005. Typing of the isolates showed that 3 MRSA clones were predominant. Outbreaks of colonization involving these clones did not occur after 2003. CONCLUSION. Our observations show that strict application of "search-and-destroy" measures can effectively control a huge epidemic of MRSA colonization and infection.