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Does universal active MRSA surveillance influence anti-MRSA antibiotic use? A retrospective analysis of the treatment of patients admitted with suspicion of infection at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers between 2005 and 2010.

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After the implementation of an active surveillance programme for MRSA in US Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, there was an increase in vancomycin use. We investigated whether positive MRSA admission surveillance tests were associated with MRSA-positive clinical admission cultures and whether the availability of surveillance tests influenced prescribers' ability to match initial anti-MRSA antibiotic use with anticipated MRSA results from clinical admission cultures.


Analyses were based on barcode medication administration data, microbiology data and laboratory data from 129 hospitals between January 2005 and September 2010. Hospitalized patient admissions were included if clinical cultures were obtained and antibiotics started within 2 days of admission. Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to examine associations between positive MRSA admission cultures and (i) admission MRSA surveillance test results and (ii) initial anti-MRSA therapy.


Among 569,815 included admissions, positive MRSA surveillance tests were strong predictors of MRSA-positive admission cultures (OR 8.5; 95% CI 8.2-8.8). The negative predictive value of MRSA surveillance tests was 97.6% (95% CI 97.5%-97.6%). The diagnostic OR between initial anti-MRSA antibiotics and MRSA-positive admission cultures was 3.2 (95% CI 3.1-3.4) for patients without surveillance tests and was not significantly different for admissions with surveillance tests.


The availability of nasal MRSA surveillance tests in VA hospitals did not seem to improve the ability of prescribers to predict the necessity of initial anti-MRSA treatment despite the high negative predictive value of MRSA surveillance tests. Prospective trials are needed to establish the safety and effectiveness of using MRSA surveillance tests to guide antibiotic therapy.

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