In patients at high risk of MRSA infection (eg, prior history of MRSA colonization or infection, recent hospitalization/antibiotics, intravenous drug use, traumatic injury),1 particularly in the presence of an open wound or purulent drainage, a negative MRSA nasal screen does not rule out MRSA skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI), nor does a positive MRSA nasal screen reliably predict MRSA SSTI. In contrast, in low risk patients without severe disease, a negative MRSA nasal screen may be helpful in deescalating empiric anti-MRSA coverage.
The sensitivity of MRSA nasal screen by culture or PCR for SSTIs may be as low as 40%, higher among those with an ulcer (70%), with negative predictive values of 80% to 98% depending on the prevalence of MRSA in the population; its specificity is better (72% to 96%) with positive predictive values of 7% to 76%. 2
In a retrospective study involving 57 diabetic patients hospitalized with foot wound infection, the sensitivity of MRSA nasal screen was only ~40% with a negative predictive value of 80%. 3 Another study found a negative predictive value of ~90% for MRSA nasal screen among patients with a diabetic foot infection when MRSA isolation from wounds was uncommon (7.5%).4
Several reasons explain why patients with a negative MRSA nasal screen could still have MRSA SSTI, including colonization in other body sites known to harbor MRSA (eg, rectum, axilla, groin, oropharynx) 6-9 or direct wound contamination with MRSA in the absence of carriage, particularly in healthcare facilities.10
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that dogs, particularly those owned by healthcare workers, may also carry MRSA in their nostrils?.11,12
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- Stevens DL, Bisno AL, Chambers H, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2014; 59:e10-52. https://www.idsociety.org/practice-guideline/skin-and-soft-tissue-infections/
- Carr AL, Daley MJ, Merkel KG, et al. Clinical utility of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nasal screening for antimicrobial stewardship: A review of current literature. Pharmacotherapy 2018;38:1216-1228. https://accpjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/phar.2188
- Lavery LA, La Fonatine J, Bhavan K, et al. Risk factors for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in diabetic foot infections. Diabet Foot Ankle 2014;5:10.3402/dfa.v5.23575. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984406/
- Mergenhagen KA, Croix M, Starr KE, et al. Utility of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nares screening for patients with a diabetic foot infection. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2020;64:e02213-19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31988097/
- Currie A, Davis L, Odrobina E, et al. Sensitivities of nasal and rectal swabs for detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization in an active surveillance program. J Clin Microbiol 2008;46:3101-3103. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2546770/
- Mermel LA, Cartony JM, Covington P, et al. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization at different body sites: a prospective, quantitative analysis. J Clin Microbiol 2011;49:1119-21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3067701/#B4
- Baker SE, Brecher SM, Robillar E, et al. Extranasal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization at admission to an acute care Veterans Affairs Hospital. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2010;31:42-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19954335/
- Manian FA, Senkel D, Zack J et al. Routine screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among patients newly admitted to an acute rehabilitation unit. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2002;23:516-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12269449/
- Lautenbach E, Nachamkin I, Hu B, et al. Surveillance culture for detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: diagnostic yield of anatomic sites and comparison of provider- and patient-collected samples. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2009;30:380-82. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2665909/
- Boyce JM, Bynoe-Potter G, Chenevert C, et al. Environmental contamination due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: possible infection control implications 1997;18:622-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9309433/
- Boost MV, O’donaghue MM, James A. Prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus among dogs and their owners. Epidemiol Infect 2008;136:953-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870875/#ref017
- Manian FA. Asymptomatic carriage of mupirocin-resistant methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a pet dog associated with MRSA infection in household contacts. Clin Infect Dis 2003;36;e26-28. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/36/2/e26/317343
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