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MRSA carriage high in Taiwanese pediatricians

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Nasal carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) appears to be high in pediatricians, according to Taiwanese researchers.

“The rate of nasal MRSA carriage for pediatricians in the present study (6.8%) was higher than that for the general adult population in Taiwan (3.8%),” as Dr. Yhu-Chering Huang told Reuters Health by email.

As reported November 26th online in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, Dr. Huang and colleagues at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Linkou, Kweishan took samples from the nares of 220 pediatricians who were attending a 2010 annual meeting.

They found MRSA in 15 attendees (6.8%). Compared to those without colonization, carriers were significantly more likely to work in a medical center and less likely to work in a regional hospital.

The rate was considerably higher than in the general adult population but lower than that of healthy children – which between 2005 and 2008 ranged from 6.2% to 9.5%.

Twelve of the isolates were identified by culture and molecularly characterized. All were susceptible to vancomycin, teicoplanin, linezolid, fusidic acid, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and doxycyclin, and resistant to penicillin.

Given these and previous findings of high nasal MRSA colonization in children in Taiwan, Dr. Huang said, “The role of pediatricians on MRSA transmission as the source, vector or victim, is an issue needed to be elucidated and explored.”

Whether this is of relevance in other settings added Dr. Huang, may depend on “the prevalence of MRSA in the local community.”

Commenting by email, Dr. Elissa Schechter-Perkins of Boston University School of Medicine said it’s clear “that MRSA is a dangerous pathogen that is becoming increasingly common worldwide. This study from Taiwan confirms what other studies have shown, that healthcare workers are more frequently asymptomatic carriers of MRSA than the general population. The authors correctly conclude that it is still unclear whether being a patient that is cared for by an MRSA carrier puts that patient at higher for infection with this serious bacteria.”

“Until more studies are done to answer this question,” she concluded, “it doesn’t make sense for health-care workers to be routinely screened for carrier status. However, since spread is by touch, all health care workers should make sure that they practice good hand hygiene while taking care of patients, and patients should feel empowered to ask their providers to wash their hands and wear clean gloves for all patient encounters.


PLoS ONE 2013.