How frequently should patients be screened?

According to the CDC, 86% of invasive MRSA infections are associated in some way with healthcare, as opposed to being community-acquired. In hospitals and clinics, asymptomatic patients who harbor MRSA may spread the bacteria to individuals who are more susceptible to serious illness.In an attempt to control the spread of MRSA, hospitals have tried screening patients for MRSA. If patients test positive following a nasal swab test, they can undergo decolonization using chlorhexidine washes or intranasal mupirocin. Some studies have reported substantial reductions in MRSA disease following the implementation of these protocols, while others have not. This is partly because there is no standard protocol for these procedures. Several different MRSA identification tests may be used, some involving slower culturing techniques and others rapid testing. Other factors, such as the effectiveness of general hand-washing protocols, may also play a role in helping to prevent MRSA transmission. There are still other questions that need to be addressed: How frequently should patients be screened? Which individuals should be tested? From where on the body should samples be collected? Will increased resistance develop from the decolonization procedures?Even if identification and decolonization procedures are perfected, ethical questions will remain. Should patients have the right to decline testing? Should a patient who tests positive for MRSA have the right to decline the decolonization procedure, and if so, should hospitals have the right to refuse treatment to the patient? How do we balance the individual’s right to receive care with the rights of other patients who could be exposed to disease as a result?
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